From the Previous Chapter:
Rebekka took a breath to calm her anger and tightly crossed her arms.
“So,” Commander Bastōn said a little jovially, “all is in order. We will hold our training sessions in the morning before the day starts.”
“But what about Mason?” Rebekka blurted.
“What about her?”
“She needs extra training.”
“She’ll have plenty time to train in the course.”
“No. She won’t survive it.”
“If she’s strong enough she will.”
“But she isn’t, and I promised that I would do whatever it takes to keep her safe. If she falls behind in the training…”
“She’ll be eliminated. Death.”
So, what Rebekka feared was true. The cadets who fell behind were culled.
“By all means, you may continue training her, I never said you couldn’t.”
“But how can I continue if my sessions with you are in the place of hers?”
“Simple. Hold them some other time. But of course, this is if you are willing to take up these challenges. I honestly doubt you will have the energies to.” As she was saying this, Rebekka’s anger was slowly rising to rage. The commander obviously saw this silent anger and looked as pleased as a cat at her being in such a powerless position.
“Any more questions?” she asked politely.
“Can I leave?” Rebekka asked through clenched teeth.
“Yes, you can Lieutenant. Yorin, show her the way out please. And would you get the cadets ready for a mock battle?”
Nearly wanting to burst with rage, Rebekka stood and stormed out the room.
Rebekka wasn’t one to rage when angry. While others shouted to the tops of their lungs to the heavens in spite, she didn’t. Nor was she one to mindlessly try to destroy the things around her in blinded fury. She rather silently fume until she either simmered down or… went mad.
This time, however, as she briskly walked from Commander Bastōn’s house she just about wanted to curse the entire world to an ultimate end. She just had about enough of people and their desire to do what they pleased with her life. Why was she the one to be a target?
She sighed to herself, displacing some of her anger. She shouldn’t think so much about herself. There were others in the same accursed Axon who were also held against their will.
Yorin was silently trailing behind her, following her to wherever she was leading him. By the time she realized he was trailing her, she also realized she had wondered somewhere near the garrisons of the teams. She slowed to a stop, her anger slipping into a familiar cheerless gloom.
“You knew why, didn’t you?” she asked. She turned to Yorin. “What she was going to say. You knew everything.”
Sadly, Yorin sighed.
“Yes,” he replied. “Of every batch of new recruits, she chooses one to lead them all. They are the ones she thinks will survive to outlast them all. I don’t know whether to say fortunately or not, but she has never been wrong. She has a sharp eye and a way of knowing valuable information about the cadets she trains. She knows they will excel in whatever they are put against.”
“Or she trains them to ensure they survive,” Rebekka said bitterly.
“Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that she has never been wrong.”
“And what if I don’t choose to live by her terms?”
“You won’t. You know that you won’t because you were trained not to disobey a ranking commanders orders. This is something she knows that about you.”
“… because she knew my father?”
“Yes… well, it’s more like she knew the way your father taught you. He and Angelica were the closest any two could be at once upon a time…”
“So, what happened?”
“A story for another time I’m afraid. We have a duty to prepare the cadets.”
“You mean you have a duty to prepare the cadets.”
Yorin straightened himself and with a frown said, “Listen here young lady. You have been given a new responsibility and though you may not like it much, it is yours all the same. I am willing to grant you my aid and advice, but not if you are going to be as thickheaded and boorish as a as a mule.”
Though he was still frowning disapprovingly at her, Rebekka say some nervousness flit over his face.
Rebekka grinned at the man. “Alright I’ll help. No need to fret. Wasn’t serious ‘bout any of it.”
Relief overtook Yorin’s entire being as he relaxed. “Good to hear…. And I wasn’t fretting.”
Rebekka laughed. “Okay, you weren’t, but I think I know better.”
“Ah, what do, you know? You’re still a sapling.”
He walked past her with his nose up.
“And what are you?” she asked following him. “An old creaky elm?”
“Precisely, an old, wise, creaky elmwood tree.”
She laughed again until it simmered into a chuckle. But then her smile waned some. She was thinking of laughter, her laughter, and how it had found itself in the Axon. It led her to think, ‘Why do I find happiness here?’ and that thought troubled her. To her dismay, a nasty little voice slipped into her mind and whispered, ‘Maybe you belong here after all. You fit in so nicely.’
“Since you will continue the training of Mason as I presume–” Yorin said pulling her from dismal thoughts. He glanced back at her for confirmation.
When Rebekka replied, “You presume correct,” he continued.
“I may have the perfect place for a training grounds. It isn’t very far from the garrisons and is quite private.”
“You are welcome.”
Rebekka stopped, causing Yorin to stop also and turn to her. “No Yorin, I’m truly thankful for your kindness. Of all things, I didn’t expect to find kindness here in this place.”
Yorin placed his hands on her shoulders. “Understand and remember these words Rebekka. You do not find kindness from the place that surrounds you, but from the people within that place. This Axon is not kind, but as long as there are people like yourself, people who care for others instead of only themselves that are within the world, there will always be kindness to find.”
Yorin’s words touched her core. She hadn’t thought of herself as kind. Each of her actions, whether for the better or worse, she had told herself was a need. She then thought of all the people who had helped her.
Jude, Yorin and Matina, Fishker and his family, Finch, and even Tweedy, Swish, and Thumble. They had all helped her in some way or another, whether physically or mentally, big, or small, but in the end, they didn’t have to. They could have been individuals and cared only after their individual lives.
Rebekka smiled, spirits lifted. The gloom that had settled itself on her life scattered. She realized she may have had a new life at the Axon, with hardships and choices she hated, but she also had new friends she could care for. And with that care and kindness she would have for them, she knew she would never become a cursed Maledicted as the world would make it seem.
Rebekka nodded her understanding to Yorin and he patted her shoulders.
“Let’s continue, aye?” he said, “We’ll be late if we stay here any longer.”
Rebekka sighed but solidified her will. “Alright let’s get out of here.”
Yorin grinned. “Think you can beat me to the garrisons?”
Rebekka cut a glance his way. She was about to ask if he was too old for it but studying his physique (he happened to be wearing light armor rather than his usual suit), she decided he may be quite a challenge.
Rebekka returned his grin. “You win, I’ll bring back you a whole cake,” His brows raised at this, “I win, you tell me more about Bastōn.”
“One, that’s Commander Bastōn to you, and two, challenge accepted.”
At Yorin’s last word, Rebekka readied to sprint, but suddenly Yorin kicked a leg from under her. She fell to one knee as he skipped ahead.
“And three Lieutenant,” he called back after her, “Never underestimate your opponent!”
Laughing, Rebekka got to her feet and bolted after him.
© 2020 Alison Bankroft