SHADE (for writelongandprosper)

Yellow for mild swearing and some scenes of a sensitive nature.

To the north, there lies the old lake. South, the mountains. The west of the city is bordered by desert. To the east, there stands a wall.

Myles Lakeman is 18. He is a man, and it is time for him to receive his mission. His mission? Survive the night.
Myles must capture the rebels, conquer the landscape and most importantly, escape the elusive Shades... but along this journey he meets a girl, a girl with a mission of her own: she must find her brother.
Together, they discover that their world is hiding so much more than they once thought: what are the Shades and where do they come from? What are the rebels doing? What is on the other side of the wall?

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10. Chapter 9: Lydia

Bright light burns her retinas as she rolls over, her back pressed against the cushioned floor of her cell. For a second, she thinks she is lying on the old mattress in her home, the morning light streaming through a hole in the ceiling as she opens her eyes. Then she sees the white walls extending up around her, meeting the painted white ceiling dotted with bright dots of fluorescent light. No.

                Her hand finds the end of her leg, brushing over the bare, jagged flesh. The skin is rough from callouses and sore from yesterday’s blisters, but that isn’t what bothers her. Instead, she is more unsettled by the lack of her prosthetic, how naked and vulnerable its absence makes her feel.

                A metallic clang sounds from across the room, and Lydia turns her head to see a plastic tray topped with a cup of water and a stale bread roll sitting just inside the door. She crawls in its direction, tearing off bite-sized chunks of bread and placing them on her tongue to soften up while she sips at the water. The food is gone too soon, and she slides the short distance back across the cushioned floor to the corner that she slept in and rests her head back against the wall.

                What can she do, other than wait for Myles to come back and save her? She knew he would have to find her leg from somewhere, or some sort of replacement, so that she could run with him to wherever Owen might be, to save him and take him with her back out into the city. But where would they hide?

                She presses her thumb against the rectangle-shaped tracker embedded in the skin of her wrist. Wherever they went, they would be able to find them. Because of me.

                She doesn’t even know if Owen is alive. The stupidity of what she has done, the decision made by the delirium and the tiredness in her brain, circles her mind as she curls there in the corner. When she next looks around the room, her tray and the empty cup have vanished. Her body begins to ache from being still for too long, so she stretches out across the floor, her chest facing the ceiling and her arms stretched out beside her so that her body lies in a cross against the cushioned tiles. What if Owen is dead, and Myles can’t find him, and she’s got herself locked up for nothing?

                What use will they have for her?

                They wouldn’t trust her to be a soldier. What if she turned her gun on them? Would she even be able to run, to fight? They could train her to work in technology or food, but she doubted they would even trust her to complete the most menial of tasks. Without her leg, she was incomplete. It wasn’t worth training her: she was too weak, not entirely human. How much could she actually do? It wasn’t like she wanted to work for these people, but it felt better than the alternative.

                She lies on the floor for what feels like hours, but without the sun to help her she has no real idea how much time has passed. Eventually the door swings open and a soldier steps in, a gun held in her hands. She has warm brown skin and curly dark afro hair cut close to her scalp, her face tattooed with inky black swirls extending up from her cheekbone and curling across her forehead.

                Lydia swivels her head to look at the newcomer, her eyes burning against the bright light. The soldier appears cold, with the same metallic eyes and cool stare as the others. The difference is in her uniform, which is black with silver stitching, the sleeves ending just above her elbows. Lydia blinks and looks at her again, noting for the first time that one of the hands that hold her gun is made from shining silver metal, adorned with gleaming cogs and twists of wire.

                “You’ve lived in this city all your life, Pederson. Something about your story doesn’t add up. Why were you in the old fields? What was your reason for venturing so far outside of the city limits that you couldn’t find your way home before sunset? Why didn’t you just hide in another empty building? There are plenty of them in the city: I’m sure it mustn’t have been that hard to find one.”

                Lydia sits up, extending her legs out in front of her as though seeing their similarities might make the Officer more sympathetic to her cause. It’s been hours, and Myles hasn’t come back yet. She has no idea how long it would take him to find out if Owen is alive and where he is, and she has no idea if it is worth telling the truth. Instead, she keeps her lips pinched shut, her hands splayed on the floor beside her for support.

“Pederson, I want you to understand this,” the soldier says, crouching down in the doorway so that her face is level with Lydia’s. “We’ve tried being nice, and you haven’t answered our questions. We therefore have reason to believe that you are in fact working with the rebels, and can therefore subject you to more… unusual means of questioning, if required.”

The ambiguity of the statement makes Lydia squirm where she sits. “I’m looking for my brother.”

“You said yesterday that your brother is dead. Why are you looking for him if he is no longer alive?”

“He’s missing,” Lydia says, her eyes shifting from the woman’s face to focus on a speck of fluff sitting against her otherwise pristine black uniform. “I assumed he was dead, but then Myles…” She stops herself. Shit.

“Myles, what?”

“Nothing… he…”

“What did Myles say?”

“He… He might have been trying to convince me to come quietly or something, I don’t know. He said there’s a chance he might still be alive, if he was taken by your forces.” She curses herself, her insides twisting in discomfort as she struggles to think of some kind of lie to weave through her answers. Her mind feels fogged and clouded with confusion, her head heavy and numb.

The soldier stands. “Interesting,” she muses, tapping the barrel of her gun against her metal hand. It echoes a discordant clang with every touch, until she curls her silver fingers around the end of the weapon and turns her back on the cell. “Pederson… yes. Your brother was here, once. He may still be alive, in fact. I could take you to see him, when we’ve finished with you.”

He’s alive! She lies back down on the floor, her face blank as her mind runs through a hundred possible scenarios and explanations. The word ‘may’ weaves its way back into her thoughts, and she pushes it aside more firmly each time it comes back until the word overtakes her mind, its implications twisting through any ounce of hope she finds within herself. The information is a half-truth, containing just enough hints to derail any kind of certainty she might hold.

The soldier’s words contained just a touch of threat, too. If Owen isn’t alive, and they’re going to take me to see him when they have ‘finished’ with me… Her fate doesn’t bare thinking about. She tries to block the fear and dread from her mind, but the inevitability of her end continues to claw its way back into her thoughts. I’m going to die here. They’re going to kill me. 

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