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By the end of the first week, I was getting tired.  The tests continued, along with a creeping ramp-up of the military aspect of our experience.  They woke us earlier and earlier, yelled at us more and more, and started classes on patriotic duty and military expectations.  It was like they forgot they were supposed to give us a choice about staying or leaving when this was over.  

There was a shift in how they treated us though.  The soldiers originally seemed to regard us as interlopers, privileged civilians that they got to torment for our sins of being dragged into this damn scenario against our will.  As some of us began to demonstrate abilities, especially those of us with physical abilities like mine, they started regarding us with caution.  Some even became more abusive.  It was just shouting though; let’s face it when someone can do hundreds of push-ups without breaking a sweat, you probably don’t want to aggravate them too much.

I think they knew that, and some of them, like Bulldog, really hated it. 

It was worse for the ones who had not shown any abilities.  As the week wore on, they were pushed harder and harder, but they were just people, with nothing to help them get through it.  Poor Rebecca; she was the only one of us who did not demonstrate any ability.  Kemi began to really shine; she could outrun any of us.  Claire had a breakthrough; she was as strong if not stronger than I was. Samantha woke up one night able to feel all of us and all the other Changed on the base.  The Seer division showed up shortly afterward and moved her to another barrack for focused development. 

The sound of soft crying woke from my nightmares of Debra’s death.  My eyes opened and I was awake, my heart thumping in my chest.  Rising as slowly as I could, I turned in the darkness towards the sound.  Light filtered into the barracks through the window shutters, allowing me to see a bit.  Rebecca was curled up in a ball on her cot, sobbing quietly into her pillow.  This was not the first night this had happened.

I slid onto the floor and over to Rebecca’s bed.  “Hey, Becca,” I whispered, “Are you ok?”

Startled, she jerked away from her pillow and turned to me.  “I’m sorry,” she said through trembling lips, “Did I wake you up?”

“Yeah,” I whispered back, “But I’m pretty glad you did.”  

She just stared at me, confused.  “Nightmares.”  The confusion gave way to understanding and she nodded.  “What’s wrong Becca?” I asked her.

Rebecca shook her head.  “It’s nothing,” she said, wiping the tears from her face.

I gave her the ‘yeah, right’ look.  “Come on,” I said, “What is it?  You can tell me.  It’s just us, the others are asleep.”

Biting her lower lip, Rebecca looked back at the other girls to see if that was indeed true.  They were completely out.  She turned back to me.  “I can’t take this anymore, Peri.  It was kind of fun at first and the idea of being ‘special’ and needed really made me feel good, you know?  I felt useful for the first time in a while.  I joked about how much I wanted powers when they told us we were supposed to develop them, but I really did want them.  I thought it would mean I really was special, that I meant something.”

“Don’t say that,” I interrupted.  “Of course you mean something.”

“Don’t Peri, please?  Let me finish talking,” she said. 

I didn’t want to; I really liked Rebecca and I did not want her to feel this down.  Ever since the beginning, she had been our cheerleader, our motivator.  

Sighing she continued, “But you know I haven’t shown anything.  And now the drill sergeants are treating us even more like crap.  I’m not like you guys.  I’m just a normal, boring person.  I can’t keep up with this.  But that doesn’t matter, does it?  They think we are all special or something and they want to make sure we suffer for it.  They’re sadistic; all of them,” she said, her voice getting louder.  I had to shush her in fear that she would wake the others up.  “What if it never comes?  What if I don’t develop anything?  Are they going to keep treating me like crap?”

Reaching up, I stroked her arm.  “Becca, you know it took Samantha at least two months to uncover her Change and a lot of the guys haven’t manifested anything yet.  I know Alec still hasn’t, and he’s pretty bitter about that too.”

“But look at me Peri, I’m just a girl.  I’ve never done anything harder than a yoga class and some power walking before I came here.  Now they have me running every day and doing push-ups.  I mean, what the hell?  I’m a complete wimp, I can’t hack this.”

Grabbing my annoyance before it started barking at her, I struggled with what to say.  “Look, Becca, don’t give me that ‘I’m just a girl’ crap.  We’re all girls and that doesn’t mean shit about what we can do.  Hell, Bulldog is almost a girl, and look at what she’s capable of.”  Rebecca chuckled despite her self-pity party.  I pressed forward, “The thing is, Becca, even if you don’t turn out to be like us, when this is all over, you can leave, go back and have a normal life.  What about us?  Even if the military lets us go, which I doubt, what kind of life is waiting for us?”

Frowning, she sat up and pulled her knees under her chin.  Eyes thoughtful, she said, “You’ve got a point I guess.”  Lowering her forehead to her knees, she said, “I just do not know if I can make it through another week.  I’m so tired all the time, the food sucks and I can’t stand being yelled at.”

“Hey, I know that,” I said.  “I don’t like any of those things either.  And hey, maybe I’m not physically tired, but I’m emotionally and mentally wiped.  This stuff hasn’t let up, and I don’t want to have to deal with it any more than you do, believe me.”

“Then what helps you get through it?  How do you manage?”

I started to answer but then stopped.  Why did I go on?  It was something I had not thought about.  This was like high school: something I hated but accepted as just part of my life that I had to deal with regardless of my feeling otherwise.  That was not the real reason though.  There was nothing really left for me outside.  I was not with a foster family right now.  With Debra dead, I had no friends waiting for me to return.  Though I did not want to admit it, I think I was managing this because I had no idea what else I would do.

“I just have to, Becca.  I don’t feel like I have any other choice.”  It was a simpler thing to say.

“I suppose, it just seems like you could get out.  You’re what, barely 18? You shouldn’t be in the army.”

I snickered.  “I know.  I don’t think I will be when the two weeks are up, but I don’t know what I would do instead.  College?  After all of this?  I don’t know.”

Smiling, she said, “Well, nobody would ever pick on you, that’s for sure.”  She sighed.  “I wonder if I’ll get back into college after this.  I wonder if I can survive this.”

“Of course you can!  You’re tough, even without powers.  I’ve always thought that.”

“Really?” she asked, glancing sideways at me.

“Absolutely.  And just think about what people would pay to come and get in shape.  You were already in good shape before this started, you’ll be smoking hot when you leave.”  I knew that Rebecca cared about her looks and thought that vanity might be a good way of helping her accept her situation.  

She grinned a little.  “Do you think so?”

“Totally,” I said, sitting on the edge of her bed, “No guy is going to be able to resist you when you leave here.”

“Thanks, Peri,” she said, hugging me.  Laying her head on my shoulder, she said, “How’d you get to be so smart?”

I squeezed her hand but did not say anything.  I was just saying the kinds of things I always wanted someone to say to me when I was in pain, but who would want to hear that?

After a while, she pulled away.  “Peri, would you mind lying here with me for a little while?  Just, you know, to help me relax?”

“Uh, sure, I guess.”  There wasn’t much room on these beds, but then neither of us took up much space.  

She smiled and said, “Thanks,” before lying down.  I nestled in behind her, spooning her.  Debra and I had slept in the same bed before when I had stayed with her for sleepovers.  That seemed normal.  Lying in the dark, holding on to Rebecca felt strange and a bit too intimate.  This was not about me though, I reminded myself.  This was about her.

Rebecca fell asleep after a time.  I realized I was starting to take a shine to her.  She had been nice and accepting of me from the moment we met, and she was kind and funny.  Were we friends now, I wondered?  Did she feel the same way?  I hoped so.  Waiting till she was in a deep sleep, I slipped out of her bed and back into mine.  It felt too large and empty.  I wished someone was there to hold me till I fell asleep and keep the nightmares at bay.

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About the author

Localforeigner

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.

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