People filed out of the briefing room. I paused by the side of the door so I could catch August when he came out. While I waited, Alec walked out. In the last couple of months, he had filled out. He was still thin, but wiry and full of muscle now. His dark hair was short and ragged, almost spiky and just a tiny bit beyond regulation: something he liked to flaunt since he was not in the military branch like the rest of us. When he saw me he turned back and came my way.
“Hey Peri,” he said, smiling crookedly. My stomach did a little flutter as he approached. At least now, I better understood why. All Changed exerted an emotional intensity on other Changed. In general, it was felt as anxiousness and often horniness. Seers seemed to ‘shine the brightest’ when it came to this power, though we all had that effect on each other. The Seers were so powerful in this regard that some people were questioning their sexuality when around them. On the plus side, it acted a bit like a sixth sense that allowed us to know when other Changed were nearby. A lot of my fellow recruits decided to give in to those feelings and there were all sorts of illicit hook-ups going on on base.
Unlike many, I was glad to say I had not given in to the attraction for any of my fellow soldiers. Yet, anyway. I always seemed so busy with training. But I wasn’t blind. I’d seen the looks. I knew I could probably get a hook up if I wanted one. For now, I focused on very, very cold showers.
Nodding, I said, “Hey Alec.”
“Are you busy this afternoon? Some of the Seer division are having drinks later if you’re interested.”
“Still spending all your time with the family?” I asked, chiding him gently. Like most Seers, Alec disappeared when his abilities first manifested. I did not see him or Rebecca for weeks. Then one day he showed back up and wanted to join the small core of Seers that were more closely attached to the military. He spent his time going back and forth between the two groups. It was not all bad: he still got to spend time with the rest of us on occasion.
He smiled. “Well, I’d spend more time with you if I could find you once in a while. What do they have you doing anyway?”
Putting my fingers to my lips, I made a shushing noise. “Can’t talk, super-secret stuff,” I chuckled.
“Fine, don’t tell me anything!” he said, pantomiming a dramatic sigh. “Still, you want to come around for drinks later? It would be nice to catch up. I’m sure we could sneak you some alcohol.”
“Oh, haha. You are soooo funny.” I still could not drink legally, but that had not stopped me before I joined the military. I was going to be damned if I was going to let it stop me now. Most soldiers didn’t seem to mind slipping me a drink when I wanted it. Unfortunately, I needed a lot of alcohol to feel the effects. It was a side effect of my recuperative abilities. Kemi and I had shared more than a bit of weeping commiseration when we realized we now had a super tolerance for booze.
“Seriously though,” he said, his tone warming, “I would like to see you. Are you doing anything right now?”
“I’m waiting to talk to August,” I said.
“Oh,” he said, stepping back. “I see. Well, when you’re done with the old man, come find me.” He turned and left, a bit more rigid than usual. I wondered what that was all about.
August walked out of the room with his briefcase in one hand and some papers in the other. “Hey, August,” I said. The flip-flop I felt from him was stronger than the others, but I did not know if that was because he was so damn dreamy or because of his power.
“Oh, hello Peri,” he said, turning towards me. “What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if we could talk a bit more about the low-level sense thing some more,” I said, falling into step with him.
“Weren’t you in the briefing?” he asked, as we moved down the corridor.
“Yeah, it’s just, well it’s something I’ve been feeling since I met you all. To know I wasn’t going nuts is a pretty good weight off my mind.”
“I can imagine. I guess it’s nice, from our end, to know that you guys feel some of what we experience all the time.”
I shuddered. “Is that what it’s like for you? Do you feel on edge all the time? That’s what I felt. It’s what I felt like when I first met you.”
“Really? Did it make you uncomfortable around me…us?”
“Well, yes and no. It’s not always unpleasant. I feel really strong emotions around other Changed. Sometimes really strong stuff, like if I’m a little bit annoyed it becomes ten times worse. Sometimes when I’m friendly towards someone, I feel all… well, gushier than I should. Usually, I’d be just anxious, like I felt something was going to happen, but sometimes it was like that feeling you get right before you open a birthday present. That excitement at the unknown.”
August nodded, “Yes, that’s kind of what we feel. Though I imagine it’s probably stronger. Being around other Changed for a long period can be difficult if we do not learn to control it.”
“Those meditations you showed us?”
“Yes. Physical activity helps, of course. I’m guessing it’s what helps you guys the most since you have to do so much of it.”
“True.” We stepped outside into the cold February air. “Do you think it makes us unstable?” I asked, voicing a fear I had nursed since I began to realize that these feelings were here to stay.
“Unstable? No, I wouldn’t say so. I mean, obviously, some of the Changed are, in fact, unstable. I do not think this sense is what caused that, however. I think they were that way before their encounter. Though,” he stopped and stared off into the distance, “I suppose that it could unhinge someone who is unaware of what is happening to them and suffering from other mental distress.” Pulling back from the horizon, he returned to me. “Why? Do you think you’re going crazy?”
I knew he meant it as a joke, but it was something that worried me sometimes. So of course I dodged talking about it, “Are you kidding? I signed up, didn’t I? I have to be fucking insane.”
Laughing, August nodded. Looking at me for a moment, he said, “I’m surprised by how well you’ve taken to military life.”
I smiled and looked away, the compliment making me uncomfortable. The fact was, I did not think I’d taken that well to life in the military. I still struggled with my anger and other issues, I still bit back sarcastic remarks I wanted to throw at the drill sergeants and got in trouble when I couldn’t hold my tongue anymore. But at the same time, it was something. It was all I had at the moment. And it was my best chance for getting some kind of justice on those monsters. That’s really what drove me.
“I’ve another briefing to go to. See you later?” August asked.
“Sure, you practically live on base.”
I watched him leave with a wave. Sighing to myself, I shook my head. If only he weren’t so much older than me.
On the way to the mess, Claire caught up with me. “Hey Peri, can we talk?” she asked.
“Sure Claire.” Claire was no longer the mousy little thing that was brought in here after her brush with death. She’d cut her long brown hair short and now thrived on the physical regime the military gave us. I’d watched her become self-confident and sure of herself, which was nice to see. On top of that, physically, we were practically equaled in both speed and strength, though I still couldn’t beat her if she got her hands around me.
“I wanted to thank you, for all the extra sparring last night,” she said.
Shrugging, I said, “No problem. You’re a good partner.”
Claire looked down, her cheeks turning red.
“I mean, we are a good match. In fighting. In the ring. Like, Kemi can’t take as much punishment as you can.” Realizing how that sounded, my cheeks began to burn. “No, I mean, you give me a good fight, you know?”
Claire didn’t look up, but she nodded. Her grin was peeking out.
“I don’t have to worry about breaking you. Or Marcus or Ramirez,” I quickly added.
“Thanks, I know what you mean.” She was quiet for a few moments as we walked. “I saw you and Alec talking. Are you a thing?”
I spun towards her. “Alec? No, god no. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s just...I’m not involved with anyone.”
“Oh?” she asked, looking up. “Oh,” she said again, her eyes widening. “I’m sorry if I’m assuming things.”
“No, no, that’s not it. I’m not asexual or anything. I mean, I’m as ragged as everyone else,” I said, leaning in conspiratorially. “But it feels awkward, wondering how much of it is real and how much of it is this weird thing about being changed, you know?”
“Sure,” she said, nodding. “But you don’t have to live like a hermit either.”
I laughed. “Well, no, that’s true. What about you? Are you...involved with anyone?”
She shook her head, before looking at me sideways. “No, I’m too shy for my own good.”
“Oh, anyone you would ask if you weren’t?” I asked, wiggling my eyebrows at her.
Her cheeks grew redder. Wow, she was shy.
“Well, if I’m being honest, I was thinking about asking…”
The doors opened suddenly, startling us both. In our meandering, we’d made it to the mess. Corporal Stone strode through the doors, looking down at us while he blocked the doorway. Over the last couple of months, I’m sure that boy had grown even larger, if that was possible. “I’ve been looking for you two. I need you to eat up and report to the firing range at 13:00 hours. They’ve got some new toys for us,” he said, an evil grin lighting up his face.
“What kind?” I asked.
“If we’re lucky? The kind that will kill an angel.”
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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.