Chapter Twenty-Two: Glen
All it took was one shout of his title to send every sildier in the courtyard running toward him. He laughed as he shook dozens of hands and marveled at the brave females who hugged him.
“Where have you been?”
“He’s been on earth all this time! How was it?”
“Did you bring anything back with you?”
They were like children, yelling to be heard over one another. A hand clapped onto the back of his neck.
“I haven’t had a proper training partner in over two decades. It’s good to have you back. I was starting to think you’d abandoned us all.”
“There are plenty of people for you to practice with, Carter.”
His old friend grinned at him. “But I’m not scared of any of them.” His smirk faded.
Glen looked around the courtyard. He knew what was coming.
“I’m sorry about Robert.”
“Me too.” He kept looking around as though Carter hadn’t spoken. “So I’m looking for—”
“The girl, right?”
“Yeah, the girl. Where is she?”
Carter eyed him. He resisted the urge to order him. It would seem desperate. Out of control. He couldn’t risk damaging either his reputation or his plan to break Saige out. He had to find Saige before something bad happened.
He turned. Chief Luther stood back at the entrance to the courtyard.
The crowd protested, but he laughed them off.
“I’ll be back. Relax and eat your lunch.”
Inside the compound, he followed his former S.O through the maze of hallways.
“I was advised against what I’m about to do. The council is worried you’ve been emotionally compromised, though you’ve shown nothing but competence. You couldn’t, after all, fight the girl’s control over you. And you recovered without issue. Nevertheless, they’re concerned.”
“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that except make sure I do nothing wrong in the next few months, until they trust me again.”
“That would be true if I hadn’t already found a solution to both our problems. But it won’t work without your full cooperation.”
“What is it?”
The man stopped where he was. Glen started to straighten to attention by instinct, but stopped. Still, Chief Luther looked serious. His S.O’s plan had to have been one he wouldn’t agree with. If the man needed his full cooperation, he must’ve foreseen Glen not agreeing.
“Before I tell you I want you to remember this: everything that happened to you regarding this girl needs to be pushed out of your mind. This is a fresh start between the two of you.”
A fresh start? As in, he would get to see her without sneaking?
“I don’t understand.”
“What I’m about to tell you is classified information. No one outside of this base and the council knows about it. It’s going to stay that way.”
“Of course it is, but—”
“The girl has joined us. She’s now a soldier.”
Glen didn’t react or respond. He apparently didn’t need to, for the man continued on further.
“We’re going to give her extensive training. Both physical and secular, as she knows nothing about either of the people she comes from. Nothing about our planets, nothing about our culture—”
“She—what are you talking about?”
He couldn’t stop the anger infused in his voice. His S.O nodded, but remained silent.
“I said...” He stopped, taking a few breaths. He needed to think about it further. The man couldn’t have meant what he thought he meant. She must’ve pretended to join them as a soldier, but in reality she was just waiting for him to get her out. There was no way she would have actually joined. She’d be so happy to see him, and his plan would work as he’d intended. But he had to act angry for a little while more.
“Why would you even let her join us? She can’t be trusted.”
“Everyone in the compound now wears in-ear devices designed to block any of her attempts to control us. They are part of the dress code now. And as she hasn’t been trained properly on how to use her powers, she can be easily dealt with should a situation arise.”
He continued to stare, dumbfounded. The man sighed.
“The world is changing. Despite our best efforts, Namai and Siren continue to join together and reproduce. Some of their children are like her. In the past, we had them put down, for the good of the people. But views are, slowly, changing. If we get to them early enough to influence them toward the greater good, like we’ll attempt to do with this girl, maybe they can be used as a tool toward joining our peoples without causing anyone undue harm.”
But what about the children themselves? Brainwashing them to act and join a side before they know better wasn’t in their best interests.
The Chief kept walking as though he hadn’t spoken a word of protest. The echo of their footsteps jumbled even further, the thoughts going through his mind. Too many emotions spun at once. He shut them all down, focusing on his job for the time being. By the time they stopped, at an inconspicuous door amongst a row of others, he had his mind in firm submission.
The Chief removed a holographic tablet from his uniform jacket and handed it to him. He scanned over the contract. It was, simply put, a deterrent against bringing harm to Saige. As though he truly needed one. Should he fail to comply with the contract, his title would be stripped and he’d be dishonorably discharged. Not a fate he would accept. He signed and returned the tablet.
Chief Luther gave him a hard look before he entered a series of codes in the door.
“Only I and one other member of the council has the code to this room, besides the girl. She is free to emerge and travel the compound on her own, but she hasn’t, as of yet. I don’t blame her, what with the hostile environment she’s in. Maybe you can help her come around.”
“Sir, I don’t think—”
The man paused before entering the last number. He didn’t look back as he spoke.
“There are no cameras, mikes, or surveillance of any kind in this room. The only word we’ll have to go on is yours and hers when you’re finished. Don’t make me regret my decision.”
With that, the man opened the door and stood to the side. Glen passed him without hesitation, bundling the unwelcome emotion deep inside himself to do what was expected of him. He was commander. He wasn’t to doubt or fear, and despite his rank and following, he was not to question. A few short years on earth and he’d already begun to forget.
Only when the door shut behind him and the bolts whirred back into place did he actually focus on the sight before him. He’d expected to be faced with the room of an entry-level soldier—bed, desk and chair, and dresser—but the room before him was closer to apartment size. But its most important feature was the girl standing at its center.
He went to Saige and pulled her close.
“I am so sorry I didn’t come sooner.”
She wasn’t hugging him back. Instead, she stood stiff in his arms. He pulled back enough to look at her face. She was staring back at him, but there was no relief or happiness in her expression. He released her, but placed his hands on her shoulders.
“What’s wrong? You don’t have to be worried. I’m going to get you out of here.”
“No. You need to leave before they suspect something.”
“Suspect s—No, I’m not sneaking in here. They know I’m here.”
She frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“I came back. They think I’m back from my vacation. I’m going to get you out of here.”
She stepped back, out of his reach.
“You need to leave,” she repeated, pausing between each word.
“I can’t leave. Not without you.”
“I’m not going with you. I don’t understand what you’re doing here—Why would you come back here?”
“To get you out! Why are you acting like this? They aren’t recording us.”
She looked at him like he was crazy, shaking her head. Her mouth opened and shut multiple times before she actually spoke.
“I don’t want to be rescued, Glen. This is where I need to be.”
“What... I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”
Only now did she become animated. She threw her hands up in exasperation.
“Glen, I turned myself in and told them what I did to clear your name. So you wouldn’t come back for me. I gave you the opportunity to never have to look back. I didn’t want you feeling obligated to help me again. You can go home and see your daughter. You’re free. And so am I.”
“First of all, I never helped you out of obligation. I helped you because I wanted to. Secondly, what are you talking about? You’re not free. You’re being held here against your—”
“They didn’t tell you? I joined them. I’m a soldier now.”
He laughed shortly. “They told me. I assumed you’d tricked them somehow into believing you would cooperate.”
Glen rubbed the area above his nose, trying his hardest to reel in his temper.
“Saige, just... please explain this to me. Because I’m not understanding.”
She moved now, sitting on the bed.
“After I cleared your name, they assigned me an S.O. Her name was Fey and she—”
“Yes. She said you’d trained her.”
He nodded slowly. Fey had been assigned to her? That was not good at all.
“Anyway, something happened—”
“What happened? What did she do to you? Are you okay? Is she blackmailing you?”
Saige looked startled by his questioning. Her eyes widened and she leaned back.
“I’m okay. I haven’t seen her since the incident, and I healed fast.”
“But what did she do?”
Now she looked nervous. “Nothing. We were just practicing and there was an accident. I’m okay though. Anyway, next thing I know Chief Luther was coming in and explaining this plan they had, and when he left I really thought about it. It makes sense, and it could work. So I chose to join the cause.”
“Look at me.”
He moved to stand over her. “I need you to look at me. You sound crazy, and I’m trying to figure out what they did to you. What do they have over you?”
Now she stood to come toe to toe with him. “They don’t have anything over me, and I don’t need you to protect me. I can take care of myself and make my own choices.”
“So Robert died for no reason at all?”
His question rendered her silent. He shrugged.
“You can take care of yourself? You can make your own choices? Robert only helped me help you because I was so stuck on it. He died trying to protect you, and then you turn around and join the people who killed him?”
“You’re still here too—”
He advanced, and she backtracked until her back hit the wall. He pressed both fists to the wall beside her and leaned in close. But he didn’t touch her. His body ran hot with anger
“Don’t you dare compare yourself to me. This is my planet, and this is my job. It’s been my job for centuries. Yet and still, the only reason I came back was for you.”
“I didn’t ask you to,” she yelled back.
He pulled back a little. But not enough to remove his hands from the wall. She showed the first sign of emotion he’d seen from her all day. She looked like she was ten different emotions all at once, the most potent of all sadness.
“It’s my fault you had to leave your place on earth. It’s my fault you had a bad standing with the Chief. It’s my fault you had to plot and scheme to get me off the planet and to this one. Robert died because of me. I didn’t want you to die too. I couldn’t take it if you died too because of something I did. Because of the fact that I exist. So if there was something I could do to clear your name and make it so that you could go home to your family, I was going to do it. And I did.
“I didn’t want you to come back. I wanted you to stay away from me and out of my business so you could live again. I couldn’t give Robert back his life, but I can give you yours. So please, would you go?”
“I’m only here because Chief Luther told me you’d explain why I was here.” He frowned. “Why am I here?”
“He said that he’d be back with my new... oh no.”
“Your new what?”
“My new S.O.”
His mind blanked. S.O? There was no way he’d be her S.O. That wouldn’t happen if he were the last person on the planet. Which he wasn’t.
“I don’t know. He was talking about my powers and how there were only a couple people qualified to deal with me. So he’d enlist their help to train me properly.”
She shook her head. “I’ll figure something out. I’ll tell him I’m not comfortable with you training me. I’ll tell him... I’ll tell him...”
He watched as she grasped for straws in her impossible situation. If she truly had enlisted in the service, they wouldn’t listen to her opinion. She was a grunt. And if he declined, he wouldn’t be trusted. His rank would be stripped and he’d be demoted. News would travel, his family would hear. They’d suffer. Elizabeth...
“I won’t be a part of this. But I don’t have the luxury of turning down to position. So here’s how it’s going to work. I’ll coach you on the Namai half of your powers. We’ll work out exactly when and how that’ll happen. Other than that, I’ll hire an assistant. They’ll help you with everything else.”
“So I won’t see you—”
“As rarely as possible. I’ll make sure of that.”
“No. Don’t say my name like that. As far as I’m concerned, I helped you for nothing. Robert helped you and died in vain. You have no idea what you’re doing, but you want me to help you like you aren’t throwing away everything you and those around you have worked to avoid? I don’t think so. You can do what you want, but I will not be a part of it. Not any more than I have to be. You’re making a mistake, and I hope you’ll see that soon. When you do, good luck. I’m not sticking my neck out for you again.”
He turned and left without waiting for a response. As soon as the door shut behind him, he stopped. He put a hand to his chest, taking a deep breath to dispel the tight feeling there, and continued down the hall.
Chief Luther looked up when he entered the office.
“I take it she’s still in one piece.”
“Of course. But I don’t—”
“I know. This is necessary.”
“I’m not going to be her primary trainer. I’ll assign Carter to do that.”
“I thought you’d say that. Fine, it’s done. Go tell him I approved it. We’ll get the paperwork done and over with tonight.”
He couldn’t still his heart on the way to Carter’s place. When his friend opened the door, he walked in without a word. He fell onto the couch and stared up at the ceiling in silence. The couch dipped under the other man’s weight.
“The Chief already called me. You don’t have to ask. I got it.”
“Just... treat her well, okay?”
There was a long silence before Carter spoke again.
“There’s more to this than what we know, isn’t there?”
“I’m loyal to—”
“That’s not what I asked. There’s something else going on between you and her. Something else happened.”
It wasn’t a question, so he didn’t answer. He sensed Carter’s nod.
“I’ll treat her well. I’m not half as unstable as Fey. And I’m certainly not one of your scorned lovers, so you don’t have to worry about my hurting her out of jealousy.”
The man chuckled, but Glen remained stoic.
“Where is she anyway?”
“Not sure. Haven’t seen her since the incident. She’s somewhere on base. There were no charges pressed against her, but she still went underground.”
But why? She had no reason to do so. Everyone should have been on her side, so she should have stayed amongst them.
“I have to find her.”
Carter stood to look down at his face.
“You aren’t mad at her.”
Again, it wasn’t a question, but he sighed.
“She’s not the monster she’s trying to convince everyone she is.”
“I’ll treat her well. Regardless of what she’s done in the past, or even what she hadn’t done, they let her join us. She’s a soldier now. I’ll treat her like one. Even if you tell me not to.”
If he told him not to. Glen blinked at the ceiling. Her face after his final words stuck in his mind. Despite her attempts at stoicism, her distress was clear. He wanted to go back and apologize. But he had nothing to apologize for.
“Want to go out,” Carter asked.
“Have you been home yet?”
He didn’t respond.
“You have to go back at some point. You can’t stay here forever.”
He could, though. He hadn’t been to press conferences yet and didn’t have to if he was truly against it. He didn’t have to see them.
“Fine. What are you planning on doing here then, if you aren’t training her?”
“I’ll teach or something.”
His friend chuckled. “You hate teaching.”
“I’ll find something to do, okay?”
Carter shook his head.
“Nope, we’re not doing this. We’re going out. Come on.”
He remained dead weight when the man tried to drag him up by the arms. Carter struggled and heaved, but he wouldn’t budge.
“I don’t feel like it.”
“Do I look like I care,” Carter grunted. “Let’s go.”
“We’ll figure it out when we get there.”
“I don’t need the exposure right now. My family can’t know that I’m back.”
“You’re impossible. I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Go find something to wear, and I’ll find somewhere low-key. In fact, get something from my closet. Is I let you go home, you’ll never come back.”
His heart sank. There went his plan.
“Carter, really, I’m fine.”
“You can’t just—”
“It’s my first day back. Just let me go home and sleep.”
The man huffed, throwing his arms up in the air.
“We’re going out soon. You won’t be moping around here like a lost pet.”
“Fine. I’m leaving.”
Carter followed him to the door.
“We have to sign the papers. You can sleep later—it’s the middle of the day.”
They left Carter’s room and started down the hallway.
“She’s not going to trust anyone after Fey. Does she trust you?”
“I don’t know.”
“I have a favor to ask.”