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Chapter Thirty-Five: Natalia

I'm not sure how long I stared at the ceiling trying to piece the shards of my life back together unsuccessfully. Time seemed to move differently in the box since I was cut off from the entire world around me. But time didn't really matter to me. I was swimming in my own pool of thoughts, hoping I wouldn't drown. I could've stared at a clock the entire time and still not know how much time passed.

"Natalia."

I continued to stare up at the ceiling. Nothing I knew was real. None of it. It was all fake.

Would I have cared about Jesse if I had my real memories or did I only care because of some directive in my drone programming? Would Todd have been a person I cared for or just another trainee failure in my eyes. Would I have wanted to be friends with Alex or wanted him as a royal pet? Who was I?

All of these questions swirled around in my mind. Nothing was real. I wasn't real. My beliefs were part of my programming. If I got my real memories back, would I have a superiority complex? Would I be forever changed by the fake memories now swirling around my brain. Is it possible for me to forget every fake memory that'd been implanted into my mind?

"Natalia!"

I turned my head to the side to look over at the window. The king stood at the window looking particularly worried about me, about his granddaughter. "What?" I whispered.

The king cleared his throat as if he was embarrassed to be here. "I came to check on you."

I returned my eyes back to the ceiling. "You came to see if I was broken. You don't care about me. I'm just a shell of the granddaughter you knew."

"I love you, Natalia."

I couldn't stop the laughter from rolling off my tongue. "You love the person I used to be." I was losing it. I could feel my mind slipping and there was nothing I could do about it. "You don't even know me anymore. Hell, I don't know who I am."

"You're still my little princess."

I pressed my lips together to suppress the laughter. He was being truly serious. "You should've thought about that before you sent me into the field."

"I never wanted you there."

I looked out of the corner of my eye because I refused to give him my full attention. The king was watching me intently. The wrinkles on his forehead were more pronounced as he scrunched the muscles lying underneath his weathered skin. "Then why did you let me?"

A trace of a smile brushed past his lips as he remembered the girl I once was. "You had a personal matter to settle. You were never going to move on it I didn't let you do this."

I rolled over to my side in the direction of the window. "What score did a little fourteen year old have to settle?"

The king was smiling now. "Your parents abandoned you but took your twin sister."

I smiled. The story the TWA was starting to spin to get me to "accept my real memories" was getting ridiculous and I was beginning to regain my sanity. Each lie led me back down the Rebel soldier path I accepted once my parents were taken. The "fact" that I had a twin sister my parents picked over me was cliche. Apparently, she was mommy and daddy's favorite so I had an axe to grind. It was similar to the beginnings of many blood feuds between so many fictional families. I wasn't buying it.

"So there's another me running loose out there?"

"Sort of."

I rolled over to my back. "Terrific. You can try to spin this story to her. See where it gets you."

"You're the only one who can find her."

I leaned my head back on my outstretched palms. "Of course I am. How else would we be able to continue this fiction?"

"Your power is connected to hers. You should be able to sense her easily once you know what you're looking for. You just need your real memories back."

I shook my head. "I don't want to be a part of this anymore. I don't care about the TWA. I don't care about the Rebels. From now on, you can all fight your own damn war. I never wanted to be a soldier for either one of you anyway. I'm done."

"Don't you want to know who your family is?"

"Nope."

"I know you sense something's wrong. You felt it back in medical when you tried to remember who I was to you. You know there's more to you."

I sat up abruptly, scaring myself. "There's nothing more! I'm a broken, incomplete person. I'm nothing but a shell the TWA has manipulated like so many others!"

The buzzing in the walls stopped, leaving the room eerily silent. I could easily escape now if I wanted but there was something true in the king's words that kept me where I was. There was something scratching at the back of my mind, wanting to be brought to the surface.

I felt a tingling at the edges of my mind as the king's presence tried to break down the defenses I kept up out of pure habit. They didn't really matter anymore. There was nothing left for me to hide. Everything in my mind was a lie. My "parents" were proof of that along with the little girl on the tape.

I let the walls around my mind fall for the first time in my life. I let the king in, unafraid of what he'd find inside. He wandered my mind freely, but I followed him around to see what he thought I had hidden in here worth his personal time.

He ventured through my memories, searching for a single moment out of the nineteen years swimming in my mind. He found exactly what he was looking for in the back, hanging out in the darkness that always consumed me when I stretched my powers beyond my limits. Something was back there in the darkness. He coaxed it out and brought it back into the light.

The little girl from the tape appeared bright eyed and unafraid in front of me. It was me from five years ago.

I approached her cautiously, unsure if I really wanted her running free through my mind. "It's okay, Natalia. It'll all be okay now." This was the king's voice ringing loud and clear throughout my mind.

I reached out to the girl, knowing this was that I wanted. She was the missing piece to the puzzle. She'd always been the part of my mind comforting me in my crises like I knew she was that I needed to be whole again. My subconscious always led me back to her.

I grabbed the girl's dainty hand firmly in my own. I didn't want her to slip away now that I found her. "I've missed you," I said to her.

She just smiled before disappearing inside a bright, blinding light. I was no longer in pieces anymore. I was finally whole.

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