“I’m not cut out for this,” Rebecca groaned, leaning against me.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s only some exercise,” I said.
“Easy for you to say, Wonder Woman,” she shot back in mock anger.
Bishop had us up bright and early. We were called out of the barracks at seven in the morning by an angry female sergeant. The bulldog’s name was Sergeant Malone and we were lucky, she informed us that we were only getting a taste of what military life was like. In her eyes, we were not fit to be spat on. Malone was the kind of person I expected from the military; all screaming and yelling and demands. The kind of person I could not stand.
Though I could tell the other women were upset at being awoken so early, I was glad to finally have slept through a night without a nurse waking me up for a test. We were given half an hour to eat breakfast and then they were taking us running. The food reminded me of food from high school, but I could not decide if it was better or worse. At the other side of the mess hall were several of the male recruits. They looked as bleary-eyed and out of it as we did. Other than a few smiles and nods there was no mixing yet.
After that, we ran in the cold December morning. It was not speed, just endurance: can you keep up with the bulldog and her cadence? I was happy that most of the girls were in pretty good shape and kept up most of the way. Claire and I had no problem keeping the pace; after a while, I just thought it was boring. I knew I could run much faster if given the chance but I could not leave the group.
I was not even remotely tired when the group made it back to the camp and we had to do push-ups. Most of us did them on our knees, but after last night, I tried normal push-ups. Just like the run, it was very easy. I wondered if there was a gym on the base where I could lift some heavyweights instead, just to see how strong I was.
When the bulldog finally allowed us to stop and hit the showers before our afternoon class, the looks of gratitude were tremendous. The girls crawled back to the barracks, dragging their feet, complaining about what we just went through. Claire did not though. She was smiling a little, something I had not noticed her doing much before.
Communal showers are...weird. I felt exposed and vulnerable, in a way I hadn’t felt since the last shelter I was at. There you never knew if someone was going to steal your things or just fuck with you. Here though, I felt eyes lingering on me for entirely different reasons. I couldn’t help but notice that my own gaze lingered on the sight of smooth, exposed skin and the supple curves of strangers. It was hard trying not to let that low, background thrum of desire make me do something embarrassing. The only consolation was that I wasn’t the only one. Shy, bashful smiles and rueful grins abounded when someone was caught staring a little too long.
Interestingly, we were all apparently fit, healthy-looking, and attractive. Was it a coincidence, or did it mean anything? The boys were also good looking, I wasn’t afraid to admit. Not sure if it was coincidence or luck.
We devoured lunch. None of this, ‘I’ll only have a salad, thanks’ nonsense. The guys looked in about the same state that we were: a few quiet ones that seemed unfazed by the morning’s activity, with several others who looked rough around the edges. If the idea was to convince us to join the military, I was not sure that this was the proper way to go about it.
After lunch, we were sent back to the briefing room. Once back in the group, my sense of anxiousness returned. Looking around, I saw that a few others seemed to be sharing my feelings of tension. Sergeant Bishop came in and asked, “I hope you are all feeling well after this morning.”
We groaned collectively.
His smile unwavering, he said, “Don’t worry, we have some more of that in store for you later. But for now, we have more briefings to perform.” He then introduced another speaker but I tuned out by that point. The guy came in and did another briefing, covering a lot of the same stuff that Bishop had about the nature of the ‘entities’. The one thing we learned that was new was the fact that, though the media had reported the angels as having been appearing for a year, they had evidence that indicated the visitations had been happening for possibly twice as long. The media reports were only based on the first collective groups of reliable witnesses.
After that briefing, there was more running and the Bulldog was more aggressive with us, pushing us harder and further. No problem for me, but I could see Rebecca was struggling. That night, when we were allowed to stop and were eating dinner, Rebecca glared at her plate. “Come on super-powers!”
There was not much chat that evening. Most of the women were dead tired and fell asleep the second they had the chance. I stayed awake, thinking about the briefing and what tomorrow might bring. Sleep did not come easy. My sense of anticipation did not go away, though it was less severe and I found myself running through a gamut of emotions. I was ready for this to be over.
The next few days were a blur of running, exercise, and more briefings about military life. There was very little to hold my interest and the constant shouting from Bulldog was reaching a critical mass. Even though the exercise was not difficult for my new super-physique - something I was pretty sure that Bulldog was now aware of - this is not what I had expected from what August had told me.
I saw Stone every now and then and he always greeted me with a smile and a nod. Rebecca was convinced he had a thing for me. I thought she was nuts.
On the fourth day, things changed.
I sat in the briefing room staring off into space, ignoring the latest round of ‘kill you with boredom’ they were inflicting on me when Sergeant Bishop came in. He thanked the other speaker and then took the stand himself.
“Hello, recruits. I hope that you found that informative,” he said, smiling that insufferable smile he always wore. Without waiting for any kind of reply, he continued. “Today we start something a bit different. We would like to begin testing you to see if we can determine the nature of your Change and what ability or abilities may have manifested since your exposure to the entities.”
Yeah, I got that figured out, thank you very much.
“But, before we begin, I would like to introduce someone who will lead a team that will be working closely with you over the next several days. He is a civilian contracted to lead our new Psychic division.”
Ok, this was more interesting. I perked up. My constant tension ramped up.
The door opened and August walked in. His crisp grey suit was a startling contrast to all the military clothing and uniforms we were seeing these days.
God. Damn. It.
I was right. That lying fucker.
“This is August Riley, please give him your full attention,” Bishop said.
August nodded to Bishop and then turned to us. “Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I’m here to talk about the incursions and what we have learned in the Seer Division so far.”
Someone in front of me said, “Incursions?”
August nodded. “Incursions are how we are designating these invasions into our space/time.”
There were a lot of confused looks around the group.
Continuing, August said, “Since we do not yet know the origins of these entities we must accept the possibility that while they are most probably extraterrestrial in origin they may be extra-dimensional and/or extra-temporal.”
We all just sort of stared at each other. I’m sure a bunch of the people in there had no idea what he was talking about.
“Time traveling angels?” Claire asked without being acknowledged. Discovering her strength over the last several days really seemed to boost her confidence and let her come out of her shell. I felt proud of her, though I had nothing to do with her development.
August nodded, “Possibly. That’s the problem; we have almost zero data on what they are or where they come from, so everything is currently possible. Regardless, whatever they are, they are currently involved in invading us. Whether these creatures are aliens or actual angels they have declared war on the world through horrendous acts of terrorism. Thanks to their destruction of the communication satellites we have only spotty interaction with the world outside our borders. We cannot be certain that we are completely aware of what is going on abroad.”
From the looks on people’s faces, I could tell that not everyone was aware of the extent of the event on Mount Everest.
Even though I was angry at August for not telling me what he was, I could not help but notice that, in command of the room and in that nice suit, he looked absolutely delicious. I could imagine kissing him, just to see what he tasted like.
Looking around, I saw that I was not the only one that seemed to be thinking that. Men and women both were appraising him with hungry eyes.
I ran my hand through my hair, angry again at how short it was now compared to before the attack. What was this feeling we all had in relation to each other? Why were we so lustful? I absolutely refused to believe it was anything but a part of our transformation.
He was still talking and while I was alternating between wanting to punch him and wanting to kiss him, I missed a lot of what he was saying.
“…It’s all a bit unclear how it works. We have seen that people who had not previously demonstrated any ability regardless of effort, have manifested their Change once they spent time in the presence of the Seers. I know that you have been told you have powers thanks to the Change. I cannot promise that this is the case.”
That caused some mutterings amongst the natives.
“You are, however, connected to this somehow. That is how we found you; through this connection. We do not know what it is, or what has caused it, but somehow you are caught up in these activities. We will find out what the connection is, whether it’s a power or something new. I promise you, we will work to uncover it.”
A young, lithe guy with dark hair spoke up, “How?”
“Through a series of tests we have devised, as well as just proximity. These things have proven successful in almost every case so far. Bear in mind, this is a new science. In fact, I hesitate to call it a science at all: it’s more an art than anything.”
August eyed the room, and when his clear eyes locked with mine, chills ran down my skin. I wanted to hold that look, keep it to myself, but then it was gone, moving to the others near me.
What the hell was going on with me? This guy lied to me. Well, he kept me in the dark, but it was the same thing almost. What the hell was I doing getting all moon-eyed over him?
“We want to work with you. Together, we will figure out the role we all play in this. Together, we will learn why this has happened to us. Together, we will find a way to stop these attacks.”
I do not know if it was his words or his smoldering look, but the room cheered. People were beating their hands on their desks. I was carried along by the wave of euphoria, shouting as loud as the next person.
Damn it. I used to be far too cool for something like that to get to me.
Bishop stepped up. “Thank you, Mr. Riley, that was an impressive speech. Now, recruits, you’ll have a fifteen-minute break and then we want you back on the parade ground. Dismissed,” he said.
August stood there for a moment, talking to Sergeant Bishop while the other recruits filed out. Some of the people gave August a bit of moon-eye as they drifted past him. I walked outside and then waited by the door. I wanted to have a private word with the teacher.
When August walked out, I grabbed his arm and pulled him to the side of the hall.
“Hello Miss Delaney,” he said with a cool smile. That smug look infuriated me. I felt lied to, deceived.
“Don’t ‘Hello Miss Delaney’ me, August. What the hell?” I said.
He looked down at my hand gripping his arm. Feeling a bit foolish, I let go of him.
“Thank you,” he said. “Now, walk with me and tell me what the problem is, please,” he said, gesturing down the hall with his hand.
“Fine,” I said and I began to walk, falling into step beside him.
After we were some distance away from the others, he said, “So, what’s on your mind?”
“What’s on my mind? What’s on my mind? Don’t you think there is something you should have mentioned to me, back in the hospital, or in the car, or before we got here?”
He cocked his head, eyeing me closely. “What do you think I should have said to you?” he asked.
Frustrated, I threw up my arms. “Don’t play with me. You know damn well what I’m talking about.” We eyed each other for a moment. “Hell,” I said, smirking, “You’re a ‘Seer’. Can’t you read my mind?”
August made a dismissive noise, waving his hand to the side. “Miss Delaney, believe me, I wish that was how it worked. So since it does not, and since you are obviously angry with me, why don’t you just tell me what it is, directly, and we can cut through the nonsense.”
Through grit teeth, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were one of the Changed?”
Crossing his arms, he replied, “Why would I? You had not agreed to join the project.”
“But don’t you think it’s something I should have known? I thought you were just some stuffed shirt working for the military and now I find out you’ve…,” I stopped as a thought hit me. “Are you a survivor?”
Shaking his head, he said, “No, I am not a survivor. But I am one of the Changed.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? All those long talks we had, you never once let on that you and I had anything in common. Why am I finding out like this?”
“Peri, I did not know that it mattered. What difference does it make?” he asked with a confused look.
“What difference did it make? It made all the difference in the world to me. Now I feel like you were manipulating me, tricking me into signing up for this little experiment of yours, instead of you being honest with me.” My eyes burned with threatening tears so I turned away from him, hugging myself.
August did not say anything for several moments. He put his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it just a bit. Then he slid in front of me and lifted my chin. The touch of his smooth skin, even as angry as I was, gave me goosebumps.
“Peri, I did not mean to deceive you. I did not know that you would be so upset to find this out. I’m not entirely sure why this is bothering you, but if I had known that it would be so upsetting, I would have told you first.” He looked down at the floor. “I thought you would be glad to know.”
“That’s just it, August. I am glad to know. But when I was all alone in that hospital, thinking I was some mutant freak, a feeling I still have, by the way, it would have helped me a whole lot if I knew that the nice guy who kept coming to see me was not secretly looking at me like I was ripe for dissection,” I said, brushing his hand away.
Eyes wide, he was finally getting it. “Peri, I didn’t realize…”
“No, of course, you didn’t, because you didn’t fucking ask. You could have made it so much easier for me. All you had to do was say, ‘you aren’t alone’, the first time we met. But you kept it to yourself, and I don’t even know why.”
Fumbling for words, he said, “I didn’t know you felt that way. We aren’t supposed to tell people outside the project.”
“But you wanted me for the damn project. I was going to be joining and hell, knowing you were in on it would have made it a lot easier of a decision. Instead, I faced this huge leap into the unknown and I did it all by myself.”
He just stared at me, saying nothing.
“It would have helped to know I wasn’t so damned alone,” I said, brushing past him.
“Peri,” he called out.
“I don’t want to talk to you right now,” I said, as I stormed off, my anger threatening tears. “I don’t even want to see you right now. Just… just leave me alone. It’s what I’m used to.”
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Bio: Though born in the United States, I am now living in bonnie Scotland. Been writing most of my life and though I have some non-fiction (gaming) published, I have never had any of my fiction published in any format. I've written a few novels before but never tried sharing them with the world. My interests are primarily fantasy and urban fantasy. I appreciate any feedback, good or bad.