In her dreams, she saw heaven. It was never quite solid, always just beyond her sight, but she knew it was heaven because they waited for her there. She would wake clutching her blanket close to her body, trembling against it as she wondered if there was a way to get to heaven quicker.
The shouts from the rest of the house would force her out of the bed. She was lucky to have her own room, but as soon as someone else arrived, they would get the nice single room and she would be forced in with some of the others.
Standing in front of the mirror, she looped her hair back with a band. Taking a deep breath, she stumbled out of the room and moved through the large house down to the dining room, where along with the others she was served breakfast.
Then the training began.
Once they had finished eating, Miss Coy would stride in, her name so very different to her actual personality. She was tall, with dark hair and darker eyes, and none of them would misbehave under her watchful gaze. Miss Coy would move between the tables and place herself at the front of the room, where she would withdraw a long list and begin to read out their names.
Her name was somewhere near the end.
"Sag Ter," she would call, and Sag, like all the others, would respond.
Once the roll call was finished, they would split up and gather in their groups. There were six groups in all, with one or two having only three or four members, most having five in their group. Sag would stand with Melody, Tara and Jac, the only boy in their group, and move with the others out into the grounds of the house.
Outside, she would glance up at the sky, wondering if her family were up there, looking down on her and the others. Were they proud of her? Did she make them smile?
She couldn't join them of her own attempts; suicide would not get her to heaven.
The groups would stand in the grounds, separated by only a few inches, gathered together as the adults came out of the building and stood in a line in front of them. Miss Coy would stand in the middle, eyes darting from child to child, surveying them for any sign of weakness.
They were fed well, looked after. Because an army couldn't become an army if they were half-starved and lacking the basics.
Sag shifted, glancing at Melody on one side of her and Jac on the other. Whereas Sag's hair was a light brown, Melody's was a sleek black. Jac's was a darker shade of brown, and Tara had beautiful blonde curls. Like Sag, Tara and Melody had their hair tied back, away from their faces. It was impossible to train with hair falling into eyes every few seconds.
Their days were planned, scheduled.
Each day of the week came with a different aspect of training for each group. Today, Sag's group were to be paired with Mr Prop, a man who specialised in team-work. It was Tuesday, the day where Group Four, of which Sag was a member, paired with Group Three to face off in a game of Paintball.
It was simple. Hit as many of the opposing team as possible, take them down, try to grab the flag they were supposed to protect. Mr Prop, as he did every Tuesday, led them away from the building and towards the woods on the grounds. The two groups followed in his wake, throwing their shoulders back and eyeing their rivals, both teams determined to win the game ahead.
X X X
In heaven, she saw her family. The weekends were devoted to personal time, to expanding knowledge and skills they had preferences for. Classes were run throughout the two days, but the children could pick which ones they attended, if any.
As long as they were productive, they could do what they liked.
So Sag was looking forward to Saturday.
But in her dream, her mother knelt in front of her and reached out her hand, squeezing it gently.
"Be good, okay?" she whispered, moving forward until her lips rested on Sag's head. And then they were gone, and Sag was awake, eyes wandering around the room, swearing she could still feel the kiss on her head.
Why would she need to be good?
She was never anything but good. A single toe out of line was cause for punishment, and Sag did not want to be punished. Not anymore than she had been.
There was a knock at her door, but they never waited for an answer.
In stepped Miss Bee, a round woman with a soft face and a soft personality. She was there to look after their wellbeing, to ensure the children were happy, or as happy as they could be. They were training to be soldiers, after all.
Miss Bee bustled in, smiling at Sag as she crossed the room and sat on her bed.
"Good morning, Sag," she boomed. "How are you today?"
"Sleepy," Sag replied, without thinking.
Miss Bee laughed. "I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
Sag shook her head.
"Good. Well, breakfast is almost ready to be served. Get dressed, Sag, and after breakfast you are to return here and pack, understand?"
Her cheery voice did nothing to dull the sadness that now shot through the girl. But Sag nodded, understanding well why she had to pack her things.
"If you want to talk about it, come see me, yes?" Miss Bee urged, still smiling as she stood and left the room, moving so fast she was almost a whirlwind.
Sleepily, Sag dressed, pulled her hair back, stuck a band in and made her way down to breakfast. She didn't breathe a word to anyone. Why ruin their excitement at getting a new recruit? As others made their way to classes or the library, Sag returned to her room. She had few possessions. Only bits and pieces, a photograph of her family, some clothes and a few books. Soon they were gathered together and she was moving back down the stairs, towards the floor that contained the dormitories. Miss Bee met her there with a bright smile.
"This way, Sag."
She followed the round woman, clutching her box as they headed down the corridor. It was the last room on the left, and Miss Bee opened the door, ushering her in. There was a row of beds against both walls, another room for six. Miss Bee pointed to the beds, telling her who slept in each one. The two at either end were empty.
"Take your pick," Miss Bee said, cheerily, still with her smile. She dipped her head before disappearing from the room, and Sag moved to the last bed on the right, dropping her box on it before glancing over the bedcovers. Like all the beds in the house, the duvet was plain, with just the logo of the company who ran the house on the bottom right hand side.
That done, she took another look around the room. The items next to each bed were minimal; maybe a book to read before bedtime, maybe a photo or two. A chest of drawers with each bed for the clothes they had.
Sag headed to the library, rather than disturbing one of the classes.
Melody glanced up from a large armchair as Sag stepped inside, smiling briefly at her before returning to her book. Moving along the shelves, she eyed the titles available, wondering which one to start on. The last book she had read she had finished quickly, devouring each word like a desert wanderer who had just tasted water for the first time in days.
Now, she looked for a book that had the potential to enthral her just as much.
Before she had found one, however, one of the boys ran into the library, a mad grin on his face.
"New kid!" he cried, and Sag watched as everyone in the room snapped their heads up, staring at the boy. He whirled around, sprinting out, and suddenly the others in the library were making their way to the door, eager to see the newest addition.
Melody appeared at her side. "Come on," she whispered, her breath tickling Sag's ear as Melody grabbed her elbow. She gently led her to the library entrance and up the stairs until they were in the hallway. To Sag's surprise, everyone had gathered to see the new kid.
She had arrived on a rainy Thursday evening, after dinner when they had an hour of free time. Everyone had gathered to witness her entrance, too, but apparently the children were let out of their classes to see someone arrive.
They stood in doorways, huddled around the stairs and on the landing. Those that had been in the library lingered in the hallway next to the stairs, watching the door as Miss Bee entered, a tall boy at her side. He glanced around, a scowl fixed on his face. His hair was blond, his eyes green and his face pale. Miss Bee grinned around at them all.
"Children, this is Kylt, our newest addition to the academy. Welcome him with open arms like you did each other."
Kylt gazed around. Sag was sure that if anyone offered him open arms, he would simply glare and, perhaps, brush them away.
Miss Coy appeared from one of the classrooms, her eyes fixed on the boy. "Welcome, Kylt. Please, follow me and we'll get you settled in." He moved forward, his hold-all gripped in his hand as she gestured for him to climb the stairs. Sag's eyes remained on him as the others returned, slowly, to what they were doing before. At the top of the stairs he half turned, and to her surprise, winked at her.
X X X
In heaven, her family looked worried. She tried to ask them why, but nothing came from their mouths. They simply stared at her, eyes begging and pleading but she didn't know what they wanted from her. Everything in her sight flickered. She heard screaming and crying, and suddenly everything was gone.
The crying remained.
Sag blinked her eyes, twisting in her bed. In the dark, she could only make out vague shapes of beds and the girls lying in them. Tara was in the bed closest to the door, on the same side as Sag. The crying was coming from her, but no one else seemed to notice. They simply carried on sleeping, and she wondered if Tara's screams were a regular thing she would just have to grow used to.
Sag climbed out of the bed and tiptoed across the room. Tara's crying grew quieter, but it was still there. She reached the bed.
"Sag?" In the darkness, she felt Tara's hand brush against her. "Sag, what are you doing awake?"
"You woke me. Are you all right?"
"Aw, Sag, I'm fine. I'm sorry. I guess the others are used to it." She sat up, the moonlight shining through the window catching her face. She stared hard at Sag. "I'll try to keep it down."
"Just a bad dream, that's all."
Sag shifted onto the bed, wrapping her arms around Tara.
"What are you doing?"
"Hugging you," Sag replied. "My grandmother used to hug me when I felt sad."
Sag giggled. "You can hug me back, you know."
Tara wrapped her arms around the other girl, squeezing gently. "This is kind of nice, you know."
"I know. When you're feeling sad, come find me, yeah? Hugs help."
X X X
Her family told her to keep her head up.
Kylt was put in Group Six, brining their total number up to five. He made Sag feel uneasy. His eyes would roam around during breakfast, lunch and dinner, and more often than not they would land on her. She wondered what he wanted from him.
Mid week, they had a surprise.
Miss Coy, after roll call, told them not to go outside.
"Please go into the film room," she instructed them, and the children made their way out of the dining hall and into the large room with the big screen. They sat in their groups. From behind, she could feel Kylt's eyes on her.
Once they were all settled, the film began.
First, they saw the large symbol of the company.
A voice over began. "There are those which wish to destroy us and all we stand for. After the destruction twenty years ago, we attempted to rebuild the country." The logo faded, to be replaced by images of burning buildings and strange, burnt humans stumbling through the ruins. Everyone gasped, shocked at the pictures.
"We cleared the streets of the infected, attempted to help those we could."
Smiling, happy teenagers waving at a camera. One of them stepped forward, winking as they held out their palms, fire forming in them.
"But there were those who did not want help, who all wanted to watch this magnificent country burn."
Footage of a girl racing through white corridors, her body covered in black clothing and her face masked with black material. Agents appearing at the end, aiming their guns.
"They did not want peace."
Lifting her hands, she produced a wall of fire.
Sag was entranced.
The fire moved forward, wrapping around the agents and leaving them screaming, writhing on the floor.
Cut to the outside of the building, the company logo clearly displayed on it.
"This is bullshit!"
Another collective gasp in the room, as, from the screen, came a loud boom. The building was enveloped in fire.
Everyone turned to stare at Kylt, standing now, glaring at the screen as it was paused. "The Black Cat was a hero, a saviour! You were torturing people in there!"
His eyes fell on Sag.
With a sharp sting, she remembered.
Her mother and father, strong, tall and proud. Her mother telling her not to be scared of the fire raging through her body. Her uncles, telling her tales of a woman so brave she had been the only person who made evil tremble. Stories of how her father had walked, God knew how far, to follow the woman he loved.
In heaven, they waited for her.
The company had sent them to heaven.
The stinging grew as Kylt's eyes remained fixed on her, as the men grabbed him and dragged him out, away.
A photo of her mother, wearing her old outfit. Black. Sleek and graceful as a feline.
Her brother. Named for a fallen comrade. Jake.
Her Uncle Oli. Who had fought side by side with her parents.
Her name, snatched away from her as they pushed the memories out of her head.
"You're her daughter, Catherine!" Kylt's voice echoed throughout the room. No one knew who he was talking about, but all of them were whispering, all of them talking.
Her eyes scanned the room until they fell on one of the oldest boys there. He was shaking, staring at the screen.
Photos of her uncle – her birth uncle, not her Uncle Oli – and her aunt, their marriage conducted under the eyes of her mother.
Her mother. The woman who had fought so hard for a better world, a better future.
She felt sick as the film continued.
The screen faded to black, leaving only white words against the black.
You are the agents of tomorrow.
A/N: A sort of continuation of I Found Away. You don't have to have read that to read this, but feel free to do so if you like. It made have a tad more impact if you've read the novel. For some reason, I just can't let go of those characters, or of Amaris and its evil ways. Anyway, reviews are returned; hope you enjoyed it.