It’s been a long day for me, and it was no help when I found myself staring at white walls. I’ve been in this room multiple times before, but today is my last day here.
Phoebe had a large smile on her face. When she pulls her hair back, it’s easier to see her cheek bones and her dimples. She is always happy to see me but today she was happy to not have to see me again.
“How are you today, Aurora?” She asked.
It’s been a year of minimal stress, a year with me being able to focus on myself, a year of just me figuring things out and I have never felt better in my entire life. It’s great not having a specific goal to work towards once in a while. If anything, I’m just glad to wake up each day.
I couldn’t help but smile at her.
“Everything’s great.” I was just so happy.
Today is it.
The Department of Health will finally release me from their cold grasp and I have never been more ready to be set free.
“It seems like you’re dealing with your anxiety better. Your statistics have dropped tremendously.” She looked down at her tablet. “This year off has treated you well.”
Of course it has.
My life has been completely stress free.
“I know this is a good day to celebrate, but I just want to remind you that you will still have to manage any stress you encounter.” She added, just to let me know. “You may be good now, but whenever you feel like you can’t breathe, just take a moment to yourself.” She said.
“And if you ever need me, feel free to call.” She said.
Phoebe has genuinely cared about me for the past year and a half and it’s great to have that kind of support. I’ve only told a few people about my PTSD or my anxiety issues but it’s not like I give them details. Everyone thinks I’m okay and now I am okay. There’s nothing wrong anymore.
I’ve been managing well.
Ever since I quit my old job, things have been getting easier for me to handle. I can think clearer. I can breathe. All this is probably because I’m not responsible for an entire nation anymore, now its someone else’s job. I don’t need to get involved with anything anymore. Sure, I still work with the Department of Defense but that’s just as an engineer.
It’s my comfort zone.
“I’ll take care of myself.” I told her.
As terrible as it seems, I’m not going to miss this room. I’m not going to miss how every week, the walls change or the furniture changes, or that stupid drone that glides around, or anything. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I’m okay enough to handle my problems by myself and regulate everything on my own.
Phoebe looked to me as I got up from the white couch. She seemed so happy to see me go and I was happy to go as well. There was nothing better.
I told her goodbye and left. I had to hold in my excitement as I walked through the halls. But it sure wasn’t awkward when I was humming to myself in the elevator or how I just about skipped out the door. I don’t care who’s staring, I’m gone. It’s over. I did it. A year of little stress and panic. This is what it’s like to live.
I might feel a little bad that I threw my hopes and dreams away but now I’ve decided to put my health above all that. There’s no way I’d want success so bad that I would ruin my body or my mind.
Things have been quiet lately. No war, no trouble, no rebellion. And all this is as far as I’m concerned because now I’m just a civilian, a normal citizen. And I don’t care about what secrets the system may be hiding.
I made my way to work and usually I’m not that incredibly happy to be here but today is a different day, I was just so happy. And no one cared. I just hopped over drones and made my way to the platform where Taurus was checking out the new bike prototypes the engineering team came up with a week ago. I strolled over to her and put my hands behind my back, standing quietly with a smile on my face.
“You’re never this excited.” She said without looking up. Somehow she knew that I was happy. “Except that one time you found out that you were first place in rankings.” She mentioned casually, twirling her pen around when she looked up.
“Hey.” I said.
“Were you the one that messed with the blueprints?” She asked even though the subject should be on how well I’ve been doing.
“If I did?”
“No, it wasn’t you.” She looked down again to fill out the paper on her clipboard. “Your main concern was the glow lights.” She shook her head, her white hair moving over her shoulder.
It wasn’t till then I reminded myself that I needed a haircut.
“By the way, the Head of Defense is here.” She mentioned.
My smile faded away slowly. I don’t know the new Head of Defense. I haven’t seen his face. The only thing I know is that Sirus doesn’t like him. At all. I stared at Taurus, waiting for more information because just telling me that the new Head of Defense is here isn’t good enough. She looked up when I had gone quiet, her pale eyes scanning my face.
“You have no idea who he is,” she caught on.
“You know I don’t care about other people’s business anymore.” I shrugged.
“Well...” She rolled her eyes and looked around. A drone wheeled by her, a tablet resting on the small compartment on top of it. “Let me just say this new guy is stone cold.” She said as she picked up the tablet and set the clipboard down. “I mean, yeah you have to be tough and all, but this guy is scary.” She was about to rant.
I just shrugged again.
“Hariette has her hands full at the moment so I have to talk to him and the Head of Transportation about these bikes.” She sighed and shook her head.
“That’s what you get for being in charge of the engineering team.”
“It is just so nice that you’re so happy-go-lucky now.” She smiled at me but she was being sarcastic. “This is the first time I’ve seen you not care.”
Apparently she thinks I like the drama and all the problems. And she’s not wrong. Well, I used to indulge in that stuff but now it’s just like why bother? She continued to smile at me, shaking her head some more. I think this is her way of showcasing her hair to me, as if I hadn’t noticed the red dye at the ends of her hair already.
“Anyway, I want you with me to help-”
“Nope.” I didn’t give that a second thought.
“It would be so awkward because he has my old job now and that’s just weird.” I explained.
“Fine.” She took a breath and looked somewhere else. “Don’t go anywhere okay.” She walked by me, the drone following behind her.
I don’t know where she thought I planned to go since this is my job but I didn’t mind waiting for her. But then I turned around to see where she went. The new Head of Defense is here and he brought a few sector leaders with him. There has got to be nothing weirder than seeing them here.
It’s not like I left on bad terms, but I did piss a good number of people off.
In a society where change is needed, where change always happens, where it’s an everyday thing, the defense for that society has a massive problem with it.
I stayed near the bike prototypes, leaning against one of them and watching from where I was. When Hariette isn’t here, Taurus helps out. I have a feeling that Hariette didn’t want to be here in the first place and I can see why.
The new Head of Defense looks...well matured. He’s gone through a lot and I could see that on his face. He was older, had grey hairs mixed in with the brunette hairs, had eyes that said he’s seen some terrible things. If I wasn’t in such a good mood right now, then maybe I would look like that...I’m actually too nice and as much as I’ve seen some horrific things, it’s not enough to have grey hairs. That man looked worn out but also like he could take down an army of thousands by himself.
I sighed quietly to myself and turned around to the bike I was leaning on a second ago. Hopefully the test runs for these go smoothly. The less problems we get through the better it is for me to work on something else.
“Hey, traitor.” A voice said behind me.
I looked up slowly, actually noticing the sound of boots hitting the floor. My lips mashed together as I turned around to find five people standing way too close near me. It definitely brings back memories to be surrounded by a bunch of people that would probably gang up on me. I sighed and shook my head. This is a bad idea.
Orion waited for me to say something, and he had that look like it better be good. I’m not good with compliments, and usually the only thing I notice with people is their hair. I mean he got a haircut, and I would say something nice but he just looked too edgy for my taste.
“Orion, it’s been a year.” I said, a bleak tone to my voice.
None of them cared.
“Yeah, a year of complete torture.” Lunar snapped.
I could only shrug because it’s no longer my problem. They are under someone else’s command and I can’t do anything about what that does to them. It’s not like it was their choice, and sure I just left without warning, but I am no longer responsible. The five of them stared at me, waiting for me to ask that question that would make them spill everything.
“How is he?” I sighed.
They all groaned together.
“He’s the worst!” Orion flailed his hands around. “It’s all about enforcing our powers or making sure everyone stays in line or blah blah blah.” He was getting louder by the second. “I’m sick of it.”
“And like yeah, we can all agree that sometimes we’re a little over the top when it comes to aggression and violence-”
"A little?” I was shocked Alya was about to put it as a little when it’s definitely a lot.
“But listen to this, Aurora, he actually limits us.” Orion’s eyes widened as he looked at the rest of them. They were all agreeing with that.
They need to be limited! If that’s the best way to control them then I’m not going to disagree! They went on wild rampages, and sure they knew how to handle their assigned situations, but I am very aware that there are other methods of handling what they could’ve handled better.
There was more they wanted to rant about apparently.
“And it’s more like he has no faith in us-”
“You know how like when you get so mad that you just go to sleep-”
“Oh my god, he and Sirus got into this wild fucking argument during a meeting once and Sirus just went right to sleep there like I’ve never seen anything happen so fast.” Alya said quickly.
We all looked at Sirus, waiting for his rants. I’ve heard them all before but Sirus has so much to say that it’s amazing. I know he will actually murder someone just because of his aggression. It’s more of like a force he can’t control.
“Here’s the thing,” Sirus started.
“Aurora! He’s so mean, like I don’t like him.” Alya complained and whined.
“You’re just being babies.” I told them.
“When you say stuff like that, we don’t get offended. But when he says stuff to us, it actually hurts.” Orion said quickly.
“He’s like that step dad no one ever wants to listen to.” Lunar said and rolled her eyes.
“You have to come back.” Altair was begging.
They were all begging. That was the fastest way to put me on the spot. I looked around to avoid the statement since it really wasn’t a question. I was sure that it would be easier if I changed the subject.
“It’s weird being ordered around by someone who wasn’t even on either force.” Lunar said before I could cunningly find a way to bring up the weather. She saw me struggling and just had to say more about the subject.
I didn’t know that issue was still going on, the whole hating outsiders because they wouldn’t understand what it’s really like until forced into it. It was a bad habit Flyers had and a really bad habit Coordinators gave in to. So I’m guessing this new Head of Defense is an outsider. Flyers really hate that. In fact, not a lot of people on the fighting force liked outsiders. We wanted our information to stay between us. No one needed to know because they wouldn’t understand.
That’s a bad habit.
I’m not going to give in to it.
I wonder how long it took this guy to get to them. It’s been a year but I doubt everything went smoothly. I hear what Sirus says. And maybe the five of them might be over reacting, but that’s just what I think.
“I still can’t come back.” I said, slightly apologetic. “I just...I need time for myself, okay.”
“That’s great, Aurora, I get that.” Orion said, though he sounded sort of sarcastic. I narrowed my eyes as he came closer to me, putting his arm around my shoulders. “But a lot of us want out.”
“Just because you don’t like him?”
“Because he gives us that vibe of world domination.” Altair said.
“It’s...well, I still can’t help...” I sighed. “You can’t just quit because you don’t like him, I’m sure he’s doing a good job anyway.” I shrugged.
What they don’t like is work, so when work starts piling up, they hate the person that gives it to them. I wonder if they openly hated me like that. Sure they used to gang up on me and all that other stuff, but I wonder what they said about me behind my back. Should I be worried? No. It’s not my problem anymore. I couldn’t help but begin to smile.
It’s not my problem.
“You know what, I’m leaving.” Orion gave up and let go of me, walking away as he tried to control his frustration.
“Next time we see you, you better be back as Commander.” Altair said as the other turned away to leave behind Orion.
The only person that stayed was Sirus. When he gets quiet, it means something’s wrong. I wanted to ask since usually, Sirus becomes my problem. Nothing’s changed over the years.
“I am so tired of babysitting you.” I glared up at him.
He looked offended but I don’t care. “I’m just really not in the mood anymore.” He said.
He tells me a lot of things that goes on. Everyday it seems like he gets more and more frustrated. And I know Sirus has a high tolerance for bullshit but it just looks like he’s getting close to that mark. Who knows what the new Head of Defense is capable of? I have to admit that it’s been quiet for a year.
“So when are you coming home?”
“Home is not with you, Sirus.” I made myself clear.
“Lately, you’ve had an attitude-”
“I’m sorry that I’m drawing the line-”
“I’m just saying, I like it.” He shrugged.
Why is he like this! I hissed in air through my teeth and rubbed my forehead. I’m just trying to get through this day and here he is bothering me. Sirus does this, whenever I don’t spend the night with him he has this urge to find me the next day to make me come back. And sometimes, I’m fine with staying over but I need my space from him.
“I heard from Alara-”
I snapped at the sound of my sister’s name coming out of his mouth. “You’ve been talking to my sister?”
He shrugged again.
“Anyway, she said something about you being incredibly happy about something, and I want to know what it is.” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“Mind your own business.”
“You are my business.”
I stopped answering to him. It was never really my intention to tell Sirus what’s going on with me, well not now. One day I will but today is not it. I looked away and shook my head, disapproving of whatever tactic he will use on me next.
He walked slowly, checking out the prototypes that were going to be tested first. I definitely knew what he was going to ask me. I could read his body language way too well, the way he touched the bike like he wanted one, the way he turned slowly to make it look like he wasn’t seriously into it.
“Yes, I can custom make something for you.” I answered that mental question of his.
“And the tracking?” He asked, more of a concern.
“If I do it correctly, you’ll be able to turn it off.” I said and lolled my head back.
I just want to know why I spoil him so much. It’s not necessary to do that much for him. Deep down though, I really don’t care. I’ve been modifying stuff for Sirus for years and now it’s just a habit. As long as I don’t get caught, he should get his own bike.
I looked over to the new Commander, wondering what he might be doing now. I know I’m not supposed to care but the curiosity hit me so hard that I just had to know.
“Do you get the world domination vibe from him?” I asked Sirus.
“The guy is secretive so I guess.” Sirus shrugged. “Sometimes, it gets to that point of whether I’m supposed to be doing the assignments or not, like morals or whatever.”
Sirus thought for a moment. “The rebellion died down a bit but...” He stopped to think about what he wanted to say. “It looks like things changed, it’s not hackers anymore, it’s actual civilians and I mean ‘not a threat to anyone’ civilians.”
“What does he make you do?”
“Brutal force, you know, for compliance.” He sighed and said, “Something’s not right anymore, everything changed and now the situation is... weird.”
Well it wasn’t uncommon for normal people to get involved with the rebellion but those people were never targeted. Of course the system was flawed and they have every right to protest it. In fact, Iris didn’t care about those people. The change is always happening, but not everyone will be happy. However, the other part of the rebellion, the part that involves other countries, that’s different. That’s where the serious threat comes from. Part of the system could get extremely exposed just because one serious hacker isn’t happy.
I didn’t know what to tell Sirus. He shouldn’t fight his own boss just to prove a point. But knowing that he’s this confused makes me want to fix the problem.
This was the first impulse I had to go meet him. I uncrossed my arms and walked forward, determined to not be drawn back by my sudden ability to want to not care. I could hear Sirus following behind me as well. Maybe if I assert myself, I can figure out what this guy is really like. Then again, I don’t want to say anything about me having that job before him. He probably doesn’t even know me. And if he does, he probably doesn’t care.
If the others were really telling the truth then maybe I might get the same vibe.
I stopped next to Taurus, a bit stunned by how tall he actually was. Now I know I’m not short but this man gave me a bit of chills just by looking up at him. He also did have an intimidating vibe. His grey eyes were piercing cold, even as he looked down at me. Taurus stopped her sentence as she glanced over my way; she was sure that I wasn’t going to join her but I had a change of heart.
“Commander, this is one of the engineers that has been working on the prototypes.” Taurus said.
“Janus.” he introduced himself and held out his hand for me to shake.
“Aurora.” I noticed his strong grip quickly. I thought he was about to break my hand off my wrist.
He paused for a second, letting go of my hand slowly, and this time he was really glaring at me. I couldn’t tell if it was because of his face or if he already hated me right off the bat. I noticed the other five putting distance between themselves and that wasn’t a good sign either.
“So you’re the previous commander everyone talks about.” he said, and it wasn’t a nice tone. I chose to ignore it. “You’ve set quite a path for yourself.”
And by that he means what?
“Now I know who everyone is so loyal to.” he commented.
I wanted to apologize for that since that kind of behavior isn’t something I corrected. I glanced to the five that were trying to hide. To think that I don’t even work with them anymore but they’re still getting me in trouble.
Everyone is getting me in trouble.
If Janus didn’t hate me before, he does now.
“You can just call it a habit from working in the defense force for so long.” I still had to be polite no matter what.
I had a strong feeling he wasn’t a Coordinator or Flyer. He probably worked on the civilian deck while in space. But where was he during that first year? I would recognize a piercing glare like his if I’ve seen it multiple times. How did he even move up in the ranks?
“Well I’m glad that you’ve found your way around. It must’ve been tough with all the pressure you’ve had to deal with.”
He’s passive aggressive, probably only with me too.
I could say something back, but my energy has run out. I can only tolerate so much attitude at once. If he wants to be mean, I won’t say anything. It’s none of my business.
“Aurora is someone a lot of people rely on.” Taurus said for me. “It wouldn’t matter where he went, he’d be incredibly dependable.” She’s not wrong.
I just smiled kindly at Janus. He can hear more from other people but he can just let what Taurus said sink in.
“It was nice working with you, Taurus.”
That was an abrupt end to the conversation. He turned around to walk away, passing by the scattered five that barely moved. I glanced at Taurus, my fake smile fading away as I stared at her in terror. Janus is something else. I don’t think I got the world domination vibe from him, I just didn’t like him at all. And it may be because he already doesn’t like me. I don’t know what else to say.
“He’s very aggressive with his vision.” She said slowly. “I don’t think he’s violent but there’s something...off.” she looked up and thought.
“Those idiots were warning me about him.” I gestured to the five that were standing around.
Technically complaining. Sirus was the one warning me.
“I don’t know what to say now.”
“All we can really do is roll with it.” I said.
There’s nothing else. We both knew that. I bet anyone that knows Janus won’t do anything. We can’t say he gives off a weird vibe. We have no proof of anything he’s done. For all we know, there might be an explanation for why we think all this. Who knows what his life is like or what he does or anything.
But that vibe was still there.
“Anyway,” Taurus sighed. “We should probably finish the prototypes before Hariette kills me.”
We stared at each other for a moment. Then we looked to the five that were just about to leave. They looked back at us too, a few glances but I could tell they wanted me to do something about this.
It’s already been a year.
There’s not much I can do.
When this is the only thing I can think about for my entire day, there’s something wrong. I shouldn’t have gotten involved. I shouldn’t have gotten curious either. This is such a bad problem to have in my mind. I am in no position to make any more assumptions, no matter how much I think I know everything about the situation.
It’s not my problem.
It shouldn’t be my problem.
For a few seconds, I forgot to breathe. I forgot that I was in control of how I was supposed to feel. The reason why I gave up everything I had before was so I didn’t feel like this. The sudden anxiety was building up and I...
I needed to breathe.
Everything is not as big of a deal as I’m making it seem. It’s not that serious.
And it’s not my problem.