Chapter Nineteen: Saige
“Wake up, lady, it’s time to face the day! Are you ready to get out of this cell?”
Saige leapt out of bed with a shriek. She pressed both hands to her ears when the woman lifted the bullhorn back to her lips.
“Get dressed, we’re breaking you out of this place.”
A groan forced its way from between her lips. It added to the aching in her skull as the bullhorn’s sharp pitches slammed into her eardrums.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?” the woman bellowed through the device. “Since you’ve gotten out. Well—”
Saige slashed a hand through the air, a thin sheet of what looked like glass shot toward the bullhorn. Each half fell to the ground, and the woman just stared down at them. For a fraction of a second, she wondered if she’d be shot and killed then and there. Had that counted as assault?
“Man... I liked torturing people with this thing,” the woman muttered. Then she looked up, grinning again. “No matter! Here,” she tossed a bundle of clothing at Saige. “get dressed. We leave in five.”
Four minutes later Saige emerged from her bathroom, clothed but shoeless. “Am I supposed to walk around barefoot?”
“They told me you didn’t get shoes, but lucky for you, I don’t listen to them. It’s only necessary to every living person, you know, to have some shoes. I’m pretty sure being barefoot wouldn’t stop you from escaping. Here.” She threw her some boots. “And you’re welcome, again, that I didn’t let them give me that horrible jumpsuit they wanted you to wear. Think early-nineties-human-comic-book jumpsuit. It was just wrong. You’re a person, not an action figure.”
Who in the world was this woman and what did she want? No way would Saige let herself be fooled into letting her guard down. That’s exactly what they wanted. Send someone friendly and bubbly to trick her into giving them any and all the information they wanted. Not going to happen. She finished lacing her boots and stood again.
She stared at the woman, and the woman stared back. Both sized up the other with a frankness that was odd in itself. Finally, the woman stepped forward and held out a hand.
“I’m Fey. I’m be your superior officer for the foreseeable future. I don’t take a lot seriously, including this entire situation, but don’t mess with me. I trained under General Mykel for quite a while, so don’t think for a minute that I’m easy to go through.”
“I don’t know who that is.”
Fey stared at her like she was stupid. Then she made a face.
“I guess he let you call him Glen, then?”
So she’d trained under Glen? She didn’t act anything like him. If what she’d said thus far was any indication, she had no respect for rules or the authority figures in the compound.
“You look like you have something to say. Spit it out or forever hold your peace, miss lady.”
“I don’t have anything to say.”
“Great! Follow me.”
She started to follow after Fey, but hesitated in the doorway. She’d been stuck in the room for days. Maybe even weeks. The rational portion of her brain told her everything would be okay. Fey would protect her. The irrational portion of her brain told her not to take a step outside the door if she wanted her head to remain attached to her body.
“Hey. Are you coming?”
She took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway, ignoring the voice in her head that told her to run as fast and as far as she could. Nothing blew up, no one shouted for an ambush or an attack. Fey simply stared at her as though waiting for her to turn tail and run back into the safety of her room. But for all the people of the compound knew, she was a monster. She had to act the part, or she’d be ripped to shreds.
“Aren’t you supposed to be taking me somewhere,” she asked Fey at last, keeping her face impassive.
The woman waited a few moments longer, mouth twisted in an amused smirk, before she began to walk. Saige released a slow breath as they made their way down a long, brightly-lit hallway. Her steps echoed off all surfaces and bounced up and down the hallway. It sounded like there were dozens of footsteps, the way the echoes worked. Panic worked its way into her mind, and she shut her eyes to focus her thoughts. Since they were walking down a straight, empty hallway, there was need for her to look where she was going anyway. Her hearing would take care of everything.
It was unclear how long they’d been walking when more footsteps joined theirs. Her eyes popped open, and she squinted, readjusting to the light. A group of four soldiers, all men, strode down the hallway in their direction. The hallway was so narrow, they had to form a single-file line to go by.
Though her bones had turned to jelly, Saige forced herself to meet the eyes of each man who passed. The first met her gaze, aggression in his own. The second looked wary. The third impassive. The fourth, however, dipped his head in acknowledgement. He looked curious.
She didn’t look back when the men passed, though her ears were trained on the space behind her so she’d know the second one of them attempted anything. None of them did though, and when they reached the end of the hallway, Fey keyed in some sort of code on the doors. But she didn’t open them, instead turning back to Saige.
“Ground rules,” she started. “You’re not to stray further than five feet from me at all times. You’re to remain in my sight unless I indicate otherwise. You are not to interact with any of the soldiers unless they ask you a direct question. You take orders from no one but myself or Lieutenant Luther. If you at any time attempt to use either set of your powers, voice or otherwise, you will be immobilized and returned to your room. And it will be a very, very long time until you see the outside world again. Do you have any questions?”
“Why am I here? What do you people want with me?”
Her S.O smiled. “No questions? Good.” She extended an arm toward the door. “After you, miss lady.”
“My name is Saige, and I did ask you a question.”
Fey’s smile firmed on her face. She didn’t speak, but kept her arm extended toward the door. She could have fought back. She could have demanded an answer, used her voice, and been contained to her room for who knows how long. It would have been worth it. But that would do nothing as far as her half-baked mission was concerned. It was important that she comply and keep their wariness low unless absolutely necessary.
So she crossed into the outside world of Tulca with low expectations for what she’d find. She’d expected a walled-in yard of some sort. Maybe a few scattered soldiers in the middle of their own training session, blissfully unaware of her existence. She wasn’t sure if it was night or day—day would make a little more sense, but since nothing the soldiers had done so far had made much sense, she wasn’t hopeful.
But what she found upon stepping through the doorway wasn’t anything she’d expected. Her feet touched down on lush, thick grass. Although brown, it was very much alive and thriving. The sky was bright, its odd silver not at all invoking the depression earth’s gray skies had given her. And the space was completely filled with soldiers both male and female as they engaged in various activities.
It wasn’t until Fey nudged her in the back that Saige realized she’d stopped, frozen in surprise. Her own imaginings shattered, she now ambled through the courtyard without a goal in sight. Everyone stared at her. She refused to focus on any of the emotions in their eyes. But her skin still prickled, and despite the frigid air, sweat beaded on her temples. She stopped again, glancing back to Fey, who followed her in silence.
“Where are we going?”
“That’s up to you, Miss Lady. This is your free time, after all.”
Almost all of the tables were full. Full of Namai, full of enemies. It was the equivalent of being a juicy steak in the middle of a pack of wolves. She wiped her sweaty, shaking hands on her pants and looked for somewhere safe. Or, rather, the safest area.
One spot called to her. A large tree sat toward the edge of the courtyard. Only a few Namai soldiers rested beneath it. It would provide the best cover if anyone attacked her.
The Namai under the tree eyed her approach. One stood and left, but the other two only adjusted their positions, reclined in the grass, and shut their eyes again. Saige moved to the other side of the tree’s trunk and took a seat. Fey settled beside her, lay back, and shut her eyes as well.
“You’re not scared I’ll run?” Saige asked.
The woman smiled, eyes still shut. “Miss Lady, if you can escape with all of us here, you deserve your freedom and all of us should be discharged.”
The answer, said lightly, made her smile. If she could escape with all the soldiers watching, she would be unstoppable. Wouldn’t that be nice.
“It’s still surprising that you can lay there with her and not watch her. There’s no telling what she’ll do.”
Saige looked up at the soldier who’d approached from their right. He wore a deep frown and leveled accusatory eyes on Fey.
“You’re being careless. We don’t know what she’s capable of.”
It didn’t seem like Fey was going to respond to the man. Her eyes remained shut and she didn’t stir from her position.
“She’s going to kill someone pretty soon. I don’t know why any of you are letting her roam around like she’s a pet or something. She’s practically wild. And—”
“Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?”
The words were spoken without much volume. No malice. A simple question, asked without any physical movement involved.
“I’m only trying to say—”
“No, my real question is are you trying to say that I’d be powerless against her?”
The man hesitated. “No ma’am. But what I said isn’t wrong.”
Now Fey stood. She moved to stand directly in the man’s space and stared him down. Saige tensed, waiting for the woman to attack. But she didn’t. Instead, Fey turned her head and beckoned to her.
“Come here, Miss Lady.”
Saige didn’t move. Extended a hand, waving her closer. She sighed, but obeyed, dragging her feet the entire way. When Fey kept her hand extended, Saige reluctantly joined hands with the woman. What in the world was she doing?
This question was quickly answered when a pain unlike anything she’d ever felt raced through her entire body, from her head to her toes, and she found herself unable to do anything but moan. She couldn’t move to jerk away, couldn’t scream, and couldn’t fight. She was stuck. Through the fuzzy static that filled her ears, she listened to Fey’s next words.
“She can’t do anything I don’t give her permission to do. Any move against anyone, including myself, will result in her immobilization, as I’ve already informed her. She is not a Goddess. She is not immune to our powers. She is, as you said, wild, and therefore undisciplined and untrained. An easy little girl to control. Now if you’re finished questioning not only my ability to protect myself, but our commander’s ability to make decisions in the benefit of us all, I’d like to get back to my free period. Understood?”
All at once, the intense pain left her body, and she fell face-first to the ground. Though the active pain was gone, the effects remained. Her entire body was on fire, and grass sliced her cheek. The cold of the ground seeped through her clothing and straight to her bones. She began to shiver. Fey’s feet remained turned away from her until she couldn’t hear the other soldier’s footsteps anymore. Then Fey’s feet swiveled in her direction, and the woman knelt before her in the dirt, rolling her onto her back.
“I’m sorry I had to do that,” Fey mumbled, checking her over. “I’m tired of my authority being questioned when I’ve displayed nothing but competence. These men don’t know what they’re dealing with...”
Alarms were going crazy in her mind. No one should ever have felt comfortable inflicting that sort of pain on anyone who hadn’t done anything wrong. Then she wanted to act as though she was justified in the act? Oh no, that just wouldn’t do. This woman wouldn’t do.
“Come on, let’s get you back to your room, hm?”
All she could do was hold on as Fey bodily lifted her to her feet and assisted her on the way back to her room. The woman helped her into bed, and left with a promise to return with dinner later on. Saige said absolutely nothing.
No,Fey wouldn’t do at all. But it was okay. She’d fix it. An easy little girl to control, was she? But the man had gotten one thing right. She was wild. And her supposed S.O would see just how wild the next time she attempted that stunt again.