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Conversations with the Enemy
Chapter Two: No Emotion
Rule Number Two: Show no emotion.
"Are they crazy?" Dark snarled, abruptly jumping off the bed we were sitting on. His violet eyes blazed with a rare fury. "They can't expect you to do this; it's suicide!"
I stayed silent and watched him start to pace from my spot on the made bed.
Dark was right (He usually was, but don't tell him I said that.). Crossing the border, especially a student not even out of the Academy, was suicide. America was divided into two sides: the Republics and the Democrats. No third side. No in between. No neutral. And if you weren't part of a side then you were dead.
Well, most of the time.
"And to actually use Belle against you," Dark continued to rant as he paced the small space between his bed and the wall. His "bedroom" was basically just a square box with a single bed, dresser, tiny desk, and no windows. Very spartan, but still a step up. Lower class students shared a room with five other kids and a prefect.
"I can't believe they're manipulating your emotions like this! As if Belle could be alive-"
"She could be," I interrupted quietly.
Dark stopped his pacing to look at me in disbelief. "What?"
"I said she could be alive," I repeated. "I never actually saw her death, I just assumed. For all we know, she could be a prisoner for the Democrats-"
Dark was shaking his head before I finished, a pained expression on his thin face. "No, Kas. She's not alive. Think about it. All the holes in that theory. First, why would the Democrats take her prisoner? Once they found out she wasn't one of them they'd kill her on sight. Second, how would she even get to Democratic territory? You told me when you were separated you were on Republic lands. She'd have to travel across two states by herself."
This talk was not making me feel better.
"And if the Commander wasn't lying about the Democrats then they haven't been on Republic land in years. That means the Democrats couldn't have kidnapped her unless she went to them. And I just told you how likely that was."
I sighed as Dark began his pacing again, his eyebrows furrowed in thought and his hands clasped behind his back. "Also, while we're on the topic of the Commander's credibility, let's not forget how weak that is. He lies, Kas. You should know that better than anybody! When was the last time you know the Republicans told the truth?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but Dark cut me off before I could. "Exactly! You can't trust anything they-"
"I know," I snapped, standing to glare at Dark who was just a few inches taller than me. "I know, I know, I know! They are untrustworthy! They have lied to me! Crossing the border is extremely dangerous and Belle's chances of life are slim. But, you know something? I don't care. It's a chance that I might see her again. And that is all that matters." It was irrational and insane, but I loved my sister. I would always protect her.
Dark suddenly went deathly pale and rushed toward me, gripping my shoulders roughly. I stumbled a bit from the force, but managed to stay standing. "Dark-"
"You're not agreeing to do this!" His eyes were wide with fear. "You're not, right? I'm not going to loose you too!" I wanted to comfort him; Dark had already lost so many people in his life like I did and I didn't want to be one of them. But, I knew no amount of reassurance could take away the fact that if I did what the Commander wanted my chances of surviving were slim.
I bit my bottom lip and tried to look away from Dark anxious gaze. Dark was having none of that though, and grabbed my chin to force my attention back to him. His blonde hair was disheveled from all the times he ran his hand through it, a nervous habit he'd had since I met him three years ago. There was a dash of freckles across his nose that you could only see if you looked closely.
"Don't you get it, Kas?" Dark whispered, his hand still holding my chin. "I'm scared for you, Kas. I'm scared if you do this I'll never see you again when you're all I have left. I'm scared, Kas."
"I'm scared, Kas," Belle whimpered, her blue eyes filled with terror. There was a smear of dirt across her forehead and I automatically reached out to wipe it off with the pad of my thumb.
"I know, sweetie, I know," I soothed as I swept her red curls away from her small, dirty face. "But, you gotta be brave, okay? Just hold on to my hand and nothing bad will happen to you."
A bomb exploded to my left, causing Belle and I to stagger in the rubble. The Republics were doing an air raid on a city, a particularly gruesome one at that. Belle and I had stopped to get food and other supplies when we heard the unmistakable sound of airplanes flying through the air. Thankfully, we were already at the edge of the city when most of the hits were occurring in the center where the people were. But, still, we had to leave the city and fast.
I pulled Belle into my side as I heard another plane rush over us and unexpectedly the world collapsed into darkness.
"Kas," Dark murmured. "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry." I felt his callused hand gently swipe across my cheek and realized with horror that I was crying. I rubbed at my eyes hastily, embarrassed at my display of weakness, and quickly slipped on my mask. No emotion, Kas.
Dark tugged at the end of my messy ponytail. A few dirty-blonde strands fell out of place and I scowled at him playfully.
"You don't have to do that, you know," Dark said softly and pushed the strands behind my ears. "Cut yourself off like that, I mean. It's just me here, you can feel."
I stiffened and felt my eyes harden. It was nice that he cared about me like that, but emotion was weakness, and weakness was death. I learned that the hard way.
Dark sighed and leaned his forehead against mine, his eyes closed. "Kas-"
"Hemmingson!" Coleman barked from the now-open doorway. Dark groaned and lifted his forehead off mine to glower at Coleman's stiff form. Coleman raised an unimpressed eyebrow before turning to me. "The Commander wants you in his office. You've had enough to time to think things over, more than enough time in my opinion."
I groaned just like Dark did a second ago and saw him smirk out of the corner of my eye. "Coleman, I'll go to his office in a sec. Give me-"
"Now," Coleman barked, crossing his arms over his heavily muscled chest. I clenched my hands into fists at my sides, but growled out a "fine". I turned to Dark and gave him a quick peck on his cheek. "Be right back." He mumbled something I didn't catch as I followed Coleman into the empty hallway.
Coleman's strides were long; I practically had to jog to keep up. A darker part of my mind complained he was doing it on purpose and judging by the quirk to his thins lips I'd say it was right.
When we approached the Main Office for the second time that day, I saw Mrs. Nelson still working at her desk. She was watching her computer screen intently, but when she noticed us she jumped slightly and hurriedly clicked something. As we passed her desk I tried to catch her eye, but she avoided my gaze.
Coleman gestured to the Commander's closed office door. "The Commander is waiting for you inside."
I nodded and opened the door, shutting it afterward. Coleman didn't need to know my business. I turned to face the Commander who was sitting behind his enormous desk with his hands clasped in front of him and a solemn expression on his face.
Making sure to keep my mask firmly in place, I went to sit in one of the chairs facing his desk. He didn't speak, just regarded me coolly like he was measuring something. I didn't talk either, if I was the one who broke the silence it would seem like I was uncomfortable or nervous.
We sat in silence, both gazing at the other unemotionally. I wasn't sure how much time passed, but when he spoke his voice was just as blank as his expression. "Are you ready to answer my question, Kashmir?"
I took a deep breath and nodded once. "Yes. I know what I'm fighting for. I will do as you ask, Commander. I will obtain the information you need by whatever means necessary."
The Commander did not respond to my words and as the silence stretched on again I tried desperately to keep my mask in place.
"I must confess something, Kashmir," The Commander told me, finally revealing some emotion with a twitch of his lips. "I am impressed." I stared at him, surprised. Not what I was expecting. "When confronted with this task, most students would either do two things. One, mindlessly follow my orders with no regards for their own safety. Two, be so utterly terrified that they would do something equally mindless like running away." He gave me a praising look. "You, however, have considered your options with a cool and logical mind. You will need that when you leave."
I felt a strange heat flare across my face and realized with horror that I was blushing.
"You do know what you are agreeing to?" The Commander asked with a raised eyebrow. "If you are caught the Democrats will execute you. We will not be able to rescue you."
I nodded and willed my blush to disappear. "Yes, sir. I know."
"Good." He stood and walked over to the wall of monitors. His uniform was a very dark green and he wore the standard black combat boots everyone had. There were tons of medals pinned to his right side, something I hadn't noticed before. Apparently, he graduated with honors.
The Commander turned on one monitor with a remote and pointed to the picture. It was a dark gray building, much like the outside of the Academy, and there was rows of soldiers and a Sergent standing in the yard. I guessed it was the Democrats training facility.
"This," the Commander told me, "Is where the Democrats train their future soldiers and where you will be staying." He pressed another button and a picture of a man filled the screen. My immediate thought was, Damn. Black hair was cut into a usual military buzz cut, that did nothing to soften his face. Hard, black eyes glared at me through the monitor, promising pain for anyone who disobeyed his orders.
"This is General Exusia, one of the main Democratic leaders. He is in charge of the training facility and the main prisons. This is the man with the authority and power." The Commander paused. "Or in other words, the man with the information we need."
Oh, God. I was expected to lie to him? His dark eyes pierced me through the screen, like he knew what I was thinking. The Commander started to speak again. "When you leave we will drop you off at the beginning of the border. You will cross the state and into Democratic territory, pretending to be a soldier-in-training. Fairly simple."
I did my best not to gape at him. Fairly simple? If it was so easy how come no one's come back alive?
"But, what about my sister?" I demanded, trying to keep my mind away from what I would have to do. "How do I rescue me sister?"
The Commander turned to me with hard eyes and a warning on his lips. "You may search for ways to help your sister, Kashmir, but remember this. If you do not discover what the Democrats are planning then we will all die. Including your sister."
No emotion, Kas. "I realize that, sir," I said calmly. "I will look for both with the best of my ability."
He nodded seriously. "See that you do." He glanced at a silver watch on his wrist. "It's past your curfew. Get to bed and I will tell you the rest of the plan tomorrow."
I wanted to protest that I wasn't tired, but I was suddenly fighting to keep my eyes open. "Okay," I agreed, fighting a yawn. "I'll see you tomorrow then. Good night, sir."
"Dismissed, Hemmingson," The Commander said, turning his back to me to gaze at the monitors. Even though he couldn't see it, I nodded before leaving.
The office door shut with a quiet click. I turned and saw Mrs. Nelson, still sitting at her desk. I felt a flash of surprise; it was past midnight and she was still working?
"Mrs. Nelson?" I questioned. Her glasses distorted her eyes until they were disturbingly large and filled with fear.
"Don't go, Kas," She whispered urgently. "Don't cross the border." I fought an exasperated sigh; I knew crossing the border was dangerous, but seriously, did everyone have to remind me?
"Mrs. Nelson, I'm happy you're worried for me-"
"No, Kas! You don't understand!"
I took a step forward, but when she flinched I didn't move again. Something else, Kas, I thought as I watched Mrs. Nelson's eyes dart around the room as if someone was listening. A feeling on paranoia crawled up my back like a spider, and I found myself glancing over my shoulder too.
"You have to listen to me." I focused back on a pale Mrs. Nelson who was now staring at me anxiously. "They're going to-"
"Mrs. Nelson," A voice called coldly. She froze. I pried my gaze away from her terrified eyes to see Coleman standing in the office doorway. There was no emotion on his face as he watched Mrs. Nelson's now trembling body. "Perhaps you should go to bed now, Mrs. Nelson," He suggested, though by his tone the words sounded more like an order.
Mrs. Nelson nodded slowly and stood away from her desk, avoiding my eye once again. "Good night, Kas," She said calmly. As she walked out the door I let out a breath I hadn't know I'd been holding.
"Whatever she told you," Coleman told me, "Is lies."
Lies. A spark of suspicion lit in my gut, warming me with it's familiarity. There was more here; I'd have to be stupid not to see it. And I was not stupid.
"She didn't tell me anything other than to be careful," I denied expertly. "She worry's, that's all." With my mask firmly in place, I met Coleman's hard brown eyes.
No emotion, Kas. No weakness.
AN: Okay, no need to say it. I KNOW this chapter is terrible. I've rewrote it over and over, but I can't seem to get it right. I'd love to hear any advise or suggestions!
Thank you to all who read and to those who reviewed last chapter!