Warlands of Song

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Chapter Nine: Saige

The frigid air blowing across her face felt pleasant for once. She shut her eyes and let it wash over her. Her skin tingled, warning her that the chill wasn’t welcome, but it didn’t matter. She almost felt free, riding in the backseat of Glen and Robert’s SUV. The only thing preventing her from disregarding all concern was their unknown destination.

After she’d calmed down at the hotel, Glen and Robert had immediately begun brainstorming. She curled up in the bed and observed in silence, sniffing occasionally.

“All of the travel ways will be monitored,” Robert was saying. “Blocked off too, most likely. We’re not going to make it back to Tulca.”

“The spaceways aren’t the only method of transport, you know.”

There was a long pause before Robert spoke again. “We’ve broken enough laws for a while, don’t you think? Should this all go south, we want as few charges as possible.”

“I don’t care about that right now. Can you find one?”

She wished she’d had the chance to gain a friend that could practically read her mind. She watched Robert tip his head back and close his eyes. He may have been counting to ten or something.

“Yeah, fine. Whatever. I don’t have a choice, do I?”

Glen grinned. “For someone who only joined the military so you could hack into important stuff with good reason, you’re too hesitant about this.”

Robert glared at him, opening his laptop and settling back on the other bed. He tucked a pillow behind his head and cracked his knuckles. “Death wasn’t imminent then. I’d rather not be executed for treason.”

“You won’t be. You’ll be executed for aiding and abetting a war criminal. Me.”

Saige frowned at Glen’s gleeful grin. He looked far too excited by the situation. Normal people would have been terrified. Normal people would have given her no thought to begin with. What was his story? She knew little about him, besides that he was a General in the military, and had a daughter. She still cringed inside to think of the last fact. She’d truly wanted them to leave her and never come back, but some sick, twisted part of her was glad they had stayed with her.

“Aren’t you cold,” Glen asked from the front seat.

“It felt amazing in the hotel room,” she said. “I know the two of you must’ve been melting. I can deal with this for a while.”

He smiled, and even Robert glanced at her in the rearview mirror. The rest of the ride was smooth, and without incident. She unwound after a couple hours or so when it became clear that they wouldn’t be running into any more Namai agents for a while.

“I have a question,” Robert asked, after informing her that they were minutes from their destination. “What are you, exactly? Why are they saying you’re an intergalactic threat? You’re just a Siren, right?”

Her eyes remained fixed out of her window, and she watched the beautiful, star-filled horizon fly by. She took a deep breath, and looked back at him. Glen had turned to look at her in question as well.

“No,” she said, “I’m not a Siren.”

“But I heard you singing in the hot spring,” Glen said. “It sounded like a giant crowd of people. A choir. Only Siren can do that.”

“That’s what everyone thinks,” she murmured.

“Full disclosure,” Robert reminded her. He didn’t look at her though.

She sighed. As was her habit, she leaned forward to look out the front windshield, and spotted him just as Robert did. He barked a sharp word and hit the brakes, jerking the wheel. The squeal of tires on asphalt gave her an instant headache, and the car stopped, parked sideways in the road.

“Stay put,” Glen ordered, climbing out. Robert was close on his heels.

She watched, partially hidden behind the driver’s seat, as they approached the man who had magically appeared in the road. He didn’t move, even as they approached.

“We don’t mean any harm,” Glen yelled. The man was a good distance away. “We need help, and my friend here looked you up—”

“I’m not in the databases anymore,” the man said.

His voice was deep and rough, and sent shivers down her spine. His goal was obviously to sound intimidating, but underneath that she could hear an underlying note of exhaustion, and emptiness. He was to be feared, but he was also in pain himself.

“My name is Glen Mykel.”

A pause, then, “As in Genral Mykel?”

“The same.”

“What are you doing here? You’ve not come to recruit me, I hope.” The man laughed, a loud, harsh sound. “I’m far too out of shape and practice. With a bit too many bad habits, I believe, to be of any use to the service any more. You should turn around and head back to Tulca. Don’t they usually ask these things by message anyway?”

Saige strained to see him through the slight fog that had gathered over the road. All she could make out was that he was enormous, his silhouette far larger than Glen or Robert’s.

“We’re not here on official business. To be completely truthful, we’re in some trouble. We need a ride, so to speak, to Tulca.”

“Trouble? I didn’t think you of all people would be coming to me to get out of some trouble. You walk on water, don’t you?” The man’s laugh was now condescending and loose. Almost as if he was intoxicated. Maybe he was.

“What did you do? Have you been grounded by the service? Kicked off the planet for a bit? Well I can’t help with those disputes, I’m afraid. ”

“I’m assisting someone our government perceives to be an intergalactic threat.”

The man stopped laughing. “Oh? What is the threat exactly?”

“A girl. She’s in the car. I’ll show her to you if you’d like.”

“Sure. I like show and tell.”

Saige didn’t want to emerge from the SUV, but she had little choice when Glen called her to come out. She opened her door and hopped down onto the asphalt. But she wouldn’t walk any closer.

“It’s okay. We won’t let him hurt you.”

She shut her door and hurried to Robert, who was closest, grabbing onto his arm. He extracted his arm, instead wrapped it around her instead. She still could barely make out the man. He moved closer, but Glen stepped in front of them.

“You can’t come any closer.”

The man’s laugh was a single bark, and then he was gone. She blinked, making sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. He really had completely disappear—

“This little thing is an intergalactic threat?”

She shrieked and spun around. The man was right behind them, looming over her. Robert kept one hand around her arm. She heard Glen approach behind them. He didn’t sound nearly as freaked out as she was.

“Apparently so.”

She backed into Robert’s chest when the giant leaned down. He squinted, a confused frown on his face.

“What is your name?”

She glanced up at Robert, and he nodded.

“Saige.”

The man’s eyes flickered. “Beige?”

“No, Saige.”

He straightened, looking disgruntled. “I shouldn’t have had that last round...”

“Why do you need to know my name? And why aren’t you listening to me when I try to tell you?”

He stared down at her until she shifted, uncomfortable. Then he said something unexpected.

“I think I know you. But if I try to explain, I’ll sound crazy. I’m drunk, true. But I’m not crazy. I can show you—all of you,” he said, glancing at the men behind her, “if you come to my house.”

“We were on our way before you intercepted us. Now I don’t think we want to,” Glen said.

“I’m begging you. Please come. It will make some sense when I show you the proof.”

His words were less shocking than the fact that he wasn’t speaking to Glen or Robert, but to her.

“Just go get what you need to show her and bring it back. We don’t have to go with you.”

“I need my friend to see you. You’ll believe her more than you will me.”

Things were growing stranger by the minute.

“This was a mistake. We’re going to leave now. Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Jensen.”

Robert started to lead her away, but she turned as they walked toward the car when the man spoke again.

“My name is Aaron. Do you remember anyone by that name?”

The raw desperation and panic in his voice threw her compassionate side into overdrive.

“No,” she said, as Robert tried to drag her away. “I’m sorry.”

He disappeared again, reappearing before her, in her and Robert’s way. Robert reacted quickly, grabbing him, but Saige held onto his arm.

“Don’t hurt him!”

She didn’t influence him in any way, but he stopped anyway, keeping his eyes on the man as he spoke.

“He’s drunk, and who knows what kind of mental case he is. We need to leave.”

But she looked into Aaron’s eyes and saw truth in them.

“He’s telling the truth. Even if it’s a truth that exists only in his mind. I’m going to go with him.”

“Saige, we can’t let you do that. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I’m a grown woman. I know the risks, but I also know he’s telling the truth as he sees it. I’m going with him, so we can either confirm or dispose of his truth.”

At his continued frown, she shook her head. “I’ve lived denying myself of the things I want to do all this time, and things have come to a head. If I’m finally going to die, I want to do it on my terms. Doing the things I want to do. And I want to do this. For him, at least.”

“You don’t even know him.”

“You don’t have to know someone to feel compassion for them. To soothe them in the ways they need comfort. He needs this. I’m going.”

He sighed, rolling his eyes. “We’re coming with you.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

She jumped when he rushed to grab her arm just as a hand touched her back.

“What do you think you’re doing,” he barked.

Looking back, she saw that it was Aaron who had touched her. He looked equal parts eager, desperate, and wary as he met Glen’s eyes head on.

“She said she would go. I’m taking her.”

“She’ll finish the drive with us—”

“What’s the worst he could do, Glen?”

Glen threw his free hand in the air, laughing in seeming bewilderment. “He’s a teleporter! He could take you anywhere in the universe. The worst he could do...” The last part was a mumble of exasperation. “The second I let go of you, he could take you directly to the people who want you. Or he could drop you in the middle of the galaxy. The possibilities are endless, but you want to assume he’ll take you straight to his house? I know you want to be compassionate, but you should also be smart about it.”

As much as she disliked his tone, he was correct. She wanted to die on her own terms, not as a naïve little girl. Her gaze turned apologetic and she looked back up at Aaron.

“I’ll finish the drive with them. We’ll be there soon. Get your... proof ready for us?”

Aaron looked distressed, and then glanced between she, Glen, and Robert before leveling his eyes back on her.

“You’re not going to leave are you?”

The expression of worry didn’t match his intimidating frame.

“I wouldn’t let them. We’ll be there.”

He hesitated, still watching her. Then he nodded, and his eyes turned black before he faded from sight.

“Let’s go,” Glen said, ushering her to the car.

She resisted a little. “Go to his house.”

He sighed. “Since you won’t let it go.”

“I won’t. So no tricks.”

"Fine, Saige.”

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