Warlands of Song

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Chapter Twenty-One: Saige

Though he legs burned from the miles she’d sprinted, Saige couldn’t stop. So she didn’t. She ran faster and harder than she ever had in her life. Fey cackled as she chased after her, hand extended and something that looked oddly enough like electricity sparkling on the ends of her fingertips.

Upon stumbling for the briefest of moments, she felt the heat of the woman’s fingertips on her neck and sped again. But there was no way she could keep it up for much longer. She’d gone around the track too many times to count. The insane track had to be twice the size of a football field. Another lap completed and her feet felt like feathers. As in, she couldn’t feel them in the slightest, and every step made her feel like they were about to fly away.

Her mind told her not to panic, but there was every reason to. There was no way this could end well.

“Don’t get tired now,” Fey yelled. “I’m just getting started!”

Anger swelled in her chest. Now she was being mocked and laughed at? Threatened? Saige wanted to show the woman that she was far more powerful. She could take her head if she wanted to.

The gym doors opened with a bang, and she looked as she ran. Her heart jumped for joy. Glen was there to rescue her from the demon disguised as her S. O.

“Jensen!

Both she and Fey halted. Saige bent over, hands on her knees. Her lungs threatened to spill from her chest with every gasp.

“The lieutenant wants a word. Now.”

“Yes sir.”

Fey turned to her. “Five laps before I get back. And don’t slow down just because I’m not watching.”

When the two left, Saige fell to the ground, desperate for the chill of the floor. Her cheek pressed to the ground, she considered throwing herself out of the window. She was on the thirtieth floor, a suitable distance to fall. Especially if she angled her head just right.

Had she truly been stupid enough to believe Glen had come for her? This wasn’t some fairytale storybook, and she wasn’t a damsel in distress. She shouldered the blame so he and Robert wouldn’t be held accountable for what happened. So he would never have to see her again, or feel obligated to help her.

Killing herself was the easy way out. She didn’t want to die. She had a mission to carry out. But Fey had become an unexpected obstacle in her path. The woman never left her side when she was out of her personal quarters. Or her jail cell, as she called it. She’d have to either kill the woman—not a bad idea—or earn her respect. Or fear. Both would work. Maybe she could do all three.

She was on her seventh lap, working toward her eighth, when Fey returned. Her S.O fell into place behind her once more, hand outstretched.

“Let’s go! Pick up the pace!”

But Saige stopped and spun. She didn’t threaten the woman with words or actions. But with her eyes alone she dared Fey to try something. A part of her deep down inside wished the woman would, so she’d have cause to harm her.

Fey looked her up and down, and her hand lowered to her side. She looked cautious, briefly, before her features hardened once more and she nodded.

“Lieutenant Luther wants me to begin your true training now anyway, so we’ll stop with the laps for now.”

The woman reared back, and a second later Saige found herself on her back on the ground, pain blooming in her stomach. She struggled to her feet, but received another blow to the nose that knocked her back. From the floor, she groaned. Fey crouched before her.

“You’re supposed to be trying to hit me back. I didn’t think you’d be so fragile.”

Saige moaned again, but took the opportunity to land her foot square in the middle of Fey’s face. The woman fell back, and Saige jumped back up, and over her. She kicked again, but Fey deflected her attack, grabbing and twisting her leg. Saige hit the ground with a thud. She found herself victim to an unending series of blows that slowly stole her consciousness, until she fell into the darkness.

She woke with the sensation of being swung to and fro as people conversed around her.

“No charges are being pressed against her? She could’ve died! We don’t know anything about her family history, her health problems, her—”

“She was doing the best she could.”

“You call that the best she could? She was supposed to be training her, not beating her to death. And the security footage showed the truth. She did nothing wrong. Followed orders to a T.”

“Yeah, I think Jensen is goin’ off the deep end.”

Saige opened her eyes. Three soldiers lounged against the walls of the small room, still conversing.

“What’ll happen to her now?”

“No tellin’. Only a few people are qualified to train her. Most are already training people. The only two left are Carter and Commander Mykel. But Carter is as evil as Jensen, and the Commander hasn’t even officially returned yet. Plus, I don’t see as how he’d agree to train the same girl who controlled him and got his partner killed.”

All murmured their agreement. None seem inclined to look at her and see if she was awake, so she just watched and listened. There were two men and a woman. Their size made her feel like a doll among giants.

“Has anyone even seen him yet? There are reports all over of him being back on base, but I haven’t seen a single picture and no one is claiming to have seen him,” the woman said. “I miss him. No one has any fun when he’s gone. No games at lunch or anything.”

“You never want to work anyway, Lynn.”

The woman grinned. “That’s not true. I love my job. But lunch time should be fun, shouldn’t it?”

The men just shook their heads. Saige stirred, letting her arms raise above her head and pillow to fake a yawn. All three sets of eyes fell on her.

“And the celebrity awakens,” the female soldier, Lynn, said. “We were beginning to worry you had some brain damage.”

She just stared at all of them in turn. None looked at her with hostility, but she knew better. They’d see her dead just as fast as they’d help her.

“None of us will touch you,” one man said. “We’re here for guard duty only.”

“Guarding me, or everyone else?”

The three looked at one another before the man who’d spoken to her grinned. “At least we know she’s not stupid.”

He looked familiar. She’d seen him somewhere before, but she wasn’t sure where.

“Guarding you is our main goal,” Lynn said. “Even though I’m pretty sure you don’t need protecting. So they didn’t need to say it for us to know we’re to guard everyone else.”

But didn’t she need guarding? Fey beat her unconscious. Granted, she was caught off guard, but the fact still stood. She wasn’t as invincible as they thought her. But it would do her no good for them to know that.

“What makes you think you’d be able to stop me from harming others?”

“You’ve had ample opportunities. If you’d wanted to hurt us, you could have by now and we’d have you locked up on your own. So you either want to maintain a semblance of peace, or you have an agenda all your own that we won’t find out about until later on. Either way, I don’t think you’re a threat unless you’re personally threatened.”

She didn’t respond, and Lynn lifted a hand behind her ear.

“She’s awake. You can come examine her now.”

There was no time to move before the door opened and Dr. Trev entered. He wore an amused smirk along with his military uniform.

“Right on time. I was beginning to worry.” He didn’t look at the soldiers around her even when he spoke to them. “All of you, out.”

The three wore similar expressions of bafflement and exasperation, but they went without question.

Saige rolled her eyes. Dr. Trev chuckled.

“It’s good to see you too, child.”

“I’m fine, and I don’t need to be looked over...”

The doctor proceeded with his checkup as though she hadn’t spoken.

“I’m well aware of your views, Miss Glade, but you should also be clear about my own. I’m going to make sure you’re healthy no matter how much you protest. You’d think that you’d have learned this by now.”

“I’d have thought you’d have learned after I warned you last time,” she mumbled.

He stopped to raise an eyebrow at her. “I’ve assessed some of the most dangerous soldiers in history. Commander Mykel is also one of my patients. If you want to scare me away, you might want to work harder during your training sessions.”

The doctor finished his ministrations and nodded.

“You’ll live. Somehow your body managed to heal all the injuries dealt to you at the start, so you should only suffer some fatigue for a bit. But you’re free and clear, as far as I’m concerned.”

She moved to hop of the table, but his hand rested on her abdomen. “That doesn’t mean you’re free to go. I believe Lieutenant Luther will be along shortly.”

Though her head nodded as though she wasn’t bothered, her blood chilled. Lieutenant Luther was coming to speak with her? Why? She hadn’t done anything wrong. But she wouldn’t under any circumstances be paired up with Fey again. She’d rather they kill her.

“I’ll see you again soon, I’m sure,” the doctor said as he left. “I have a feeling you’ll be prone to incidents like this.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

He turned in the doorway. “I know. But Miss Jensen isn’t the only one who wants you in pain. This is why we’re training you. Work hard, Miss Glade, and watch out for yourself. Things won’t get any easier, and you can’t trust anyone.”

The door shut behind him with a soft click. She expected the soldiers from before to return, but they didn’t. This left her alone with her thoughts. The only person she could trust was herself now. Though deep down she knew that wasn’t true. She could trust Glen. But he wasn’t coming back. She could trust Robert. But he was dead. She could trust Aaron, but he didn’t know where she was and if she was even alive. But of course it was best that way. The less people involved in her mess, the better.

If she had remained on earth, what would she have been doing? If she’d never found Glen, never moved to that quiet little mountain in the Carolinas, what would have become of her? She would be dead, without a doubt. People, regardless of whom they worked for, had already begun to come for her. She was a target in every sense of the word. She would have died, simply for lack of experience. She should have died the same night Glen had saved her in her new cabin on the mountain. Had it truly been pure coincidence that he’d been there, and Robert?

Her thoughts were interrupted when the door opened again and the man she assumed to be Lieutenant Luther stalked in, followed by a couple of soldiers and a small woman.

H stopped in the middle of the room, his yon the back wall piercing her skin with their glares, and held out a hand for her to shake. But he didn’t speak or make any move to introduce himself at all.

She stood to approach him and shake his hand. Only then did he speak.

“My name is Lieutenant Luther. I command this compound, and everyone inside it. It is my job to make sure all of the cogs in this clock are well-oiled and in proper order, and that none are malfunctioning. This affects other cogs and can even damage them. But I failed to do my job recently, not noticing that one of my cogs was far out of order. I apologize for Private Jensen’s abhorrent behavior. That is not at all the attitude being promoted toward you. You can rest assured that this event will not repeat itself.”

She’d expected a lecture, or a threat. Maybe some high and mighty powerful speech about how he ruled over everything including her and that she needed to learn to stay in line if she wanted to remain in the compound without injury. So his apology had her rendered speechless for a fraction of a second.

“What attitude is being encouraged, regarding me? Sir,” she added on a whim.

“You’re to be treated as a new recruit for the time being. Not an outsider, or a stranger. Or a freak. And certainly not as the enemy.”

“But aren’t I the enemy? You are, after all, hunting my kind down and killing them.”

“I assure you that is not our goal. Nor have we been killing your kind. We’ve been trying to save them.”

She tried not to give him such a plain look of disbelief. She really did. But she failed.

“With all due respect, sir, I don’t trust any of you. I turned myself in because I realized it was useless to run. I turned myself in because I wanted a life and I knew there was no way I could ever have one. I expected you all to kill me. But no, I’m still here. And what am I doing here? You’re training me? After I control your men and get one of them killed, you’re going to bring me to your secret hideaway and train me to be more lethal. No, I’m not buying this at all. I want to know what you’re real plan is for me. Do you plan on disposing of me once I reach a level of power that you all can no longer control? Because I guarantee you I will. I’m easy prey now, but I won’t be for long.”

The man showed no reaction to her speech, even as her voice rose until she yelled. But when she finished, he gave a short, curt nod.

“Given how you’ve been living up until now, it isn’t surprising that your trust is lacking. And when it comes to the actions and violence that have been displayed toward you, and your lack of knowledge on who carried out what, your anger is understandable.”

Of course it was understandable. She never doubted that for a second.

“But what you must also consider is that there’s another side to your story. You’ve suffered, granted. But as for myself and the government I work for, we’ve also suffered. Many events, good and bad, have come and gone since our peoples’ beginnings. If you keep an open mind and put aside your anger, we will teach you about this. In time, everything you’ve gone through and will continue to go through in the future will become clearer.”

“What do you want from me, exactly?”

“We want the same thing that you want. Peace. And if you work with us, I believe that goal can be achieved.”

“So...” She considered his words. “You want me to study and train. So that I can work with you, somehow?”

“Saige, I’m going to be blunt. I want you to join our military. We will train you, both physically and secularly, until you qualify for citizenship here on Tulca. After your training is complete, you’ll become the face of a new program that will take place both here and on Euphora.”

She stared at him, frowning. “I don’t... No one believes that people like me even exist. And you guys have been trying to hide us away.”

“Yes, we have. Because that’s what we thought was best. But we’re beginning a new approach. We’re going to be revealing you, individually, to the public, to see how they respond.”

“You’ll be leading me to a public execution.”

“Death is possible. But it’s possible either way. At least this way there’s the possibility for something good.” He waited until she met his eyes.

“Change.”

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