“Ahhhh…” she sighed contently and wiped her mouth with her sleeve.
“So,” Rebekka began with a crafty grin. “How was the plate of extra trimmings?”
“Rebekka!” Mason protested with a scowl and gave her a little swap across the upper arm. Rebekka broke into a cheerful chortle and didn’t stop until it ached.
Mason was still watching with her scowl when she was done. “Are you done now?”
Rebekka chuckled a little more and resumed eating her meal.
“Isn’t it funny?” Mason asked most likely thinking out loud. “There are a lot more people than there was earlier. At first there were only twenty or so. Now there are about forty.”
“You’re right. They either are from the other commanders or were here before we were.”
“No, they aren’t from the other commanders. I would recognize a few of them from when we were getting our identifications. Jude says that I have an extraordinary memory for faces.”
“Hm, is that so…”
“Yep. Once I see them, I can’t unsee them. Their face is stuck forever.”
“Five more minutes!” someone called.
“Looks like they don’t give us much time to eat,” Mason muttered.
“No…” Rebeka replied and grinned. “But it’s not like you needed much time anyway.”
Mason gave her a face that would’ve sent her into a laughing fit if it weren’t for the person who sat at their table.
He was a boy nearly the same age as Mason, which would have been about 15 or 16, with straggly black hair and bright mischievous eyes. The clothes he wore were well used and, in some places, in need of repair. On top of his mop of hair, he wore a knitted olive-green cap that was just as battered as the rest of his clothes.
“What’s a pair of wonderful young ladies doing sitting here all alone?” he asked sliding into the seat opposite of Mason.
Before Rebekka could even crack her mouth open, Mason snapped off a snippy, “Who wants to know?”
“Well, we do. Tweedy no-name and his good friend Thumble.”
At the name Thumble, a towering man of immense size stepped from behind Rebekka’s eyesight and sat beside Tweedy. The seat squealed and sank under his weight.
He wore the same clothes as the rest of them did. Loose dark red-brown woolen shirt over a thinner long-sleeved shirt and woolen pants of the same red-brown color. His hair, which was a light brown, was cropped short. His face was a calm one that borne thick eyebrows.
Sensing there might be trouble to arise, Rebekka spoke next. “What do you want?”
Tweedy sighed and looked over at Thumble. “Everyone around here is always so uptight eh Thumble?”
“What do you expect them to be you idiot?” someone else said. Suddenly a girl appeared from thin air at the other end of the table, arms crossed. She was dark and moody in appearance, dressed in the Axon’s standard, and had hair so black it contained a blue-purple tinge to it. She was a few years older than the boy and a little tall for her age.
Rebekka had never seen magic that could allow a person to be hidden from sight. It was obvious Mason hadn’t either; she looked just as surprised as Rebekka felt.
“This is an Axon,” the girl continued. “No one is supposed to be happy here.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t greet the newcomers,” Tweedy replied to the girl with a crabby expression, but then turned back to Rebekka and Mason with a smile. The boy had a prominent gap between his front teeth which added to his rascally air.
“I don’t think they want your greetings,” the girl said with a notably sour frown.
Tweedy sent his eyes upward as in a silent plea and went on to say, “Excuse my sister, Swish. She has this sort of agenda to make everyone as dark and miserable as she is.”
“I do not!” she hissed.
“Well, could you stop butting in each time I try to make acquaintances?”
“How many acquaintances are you going to try to make? Everyone that has come here doesn’t want anything to do with you! Why can’t you see that?”
“I wouldn’t mind getting your acquaintance,” Mason said.
At that, the table went silent and the two quibbling siblings looked at her. Thumble began a rumbling laugh and leaned back in his seat. It whimpered out in terrible protest, but it did its duty and held his weight.
“I’m Mason,” Mason went on in her usual cheery way. “This is Rebekka.”
“Nice to meet you Mason and Rebekka,” Tweedy replied with the widest smile one could imagine. Swish rolled her eyes and blew a puff of her hair from in front of her face. “You would believe how hard it is to find friendly people here.”
“So, what brought you over here if it is so hard?” Rebekka asked with a lifted eyebrow.
“Why your laughter of course!”
Rebekka felt her cheeks warm some. It should’ve been obvious that she would have gotten attention that way.
“There hasn’t been anyone here to laugh like that in a while.”
“What do you mean a while?” Rebekka asked.
“Ugh, he’s always talking like he’s been here since the founding,” Swish said. “We’ve only been here for a week.”
Tweedy shot her his crabby look as Rebekka asked, “A week?”
“We’re new recruits just like you are.”
“You’ve started training?” Mason asked. “What’s it like?”
“No, we haven’t started training yet,” Tweedy slid in, which caused him to receive a razor look from Swish. “That starts tomorrow.”
“So, I guess we’re the unlucky ones. We just arrived today.”
“Yes, unlucky you are, but don’t worry! We can show you around and all after this meal so you’ll have an idea of where everything is. Give you the official tour… but that’s only if you want too.”
“I’d love to! I mean, we’d love to…”
“Mason!” Rebekka protested.
“What? It’s just a tour.” She then switched to her matter-of-factly look. “Weren’t you the one who said that thing about gathering information and how you can use it later?”
Rebekka sighed. She was a crafty one, that was for sure. Probably why Jude was the way he was…
“Alright, you win,” she said giving in. “We’ll go on the tour.”
“Great!” Tweedy said. “The lunch warden should be calling the meal’s end in a little bit. Meals never last long around here.”
“And they’ll just let you give us a tour?” Mason asked.
“Sure. Once you’re in the Axon, there’s no getting out. They pretty much let us roam anywhere we want. The places they don’t want you, they have guards posted.” He leaned in closer. “But there are some places I can get into without them knowing.”
Mason perked. “Really?”
Tweedy leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head and a grin on his face. “Yep and I’ll show you some if we have the time.”
(to be continued…)
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