I landed back in the world, sword in one hand and bad-assery in the other. Or so I thought. In reality I had every intention of teleporting/zapping myself back to Lucifer’s realm just to, you know, try and catch Bella or something.
Instead, I landed in the mortal/incarnate realm. Bam! I careened on my feet, Bella’s sword in hand and grogginess in the other. The lab veered around me and I felt myself keel over- then right myself suddenly thanks to a grip on my arm.
At my side, FoxFace peered at me. “You’re alone. What happened?”
I staggered as my wobbly legs found their footing (hah!). I held up a finger between us. “Just a min,” I mumbled as the room began slowing down its spinning.
FoxFace clapped me on both shoulders and looked me in the eyes. There were soldiers lining the walls of this lab and they were also glaring at me with all the strength in their eyeballs. But FoxFace shook me stiffly so I looked her in the eyes. “Where is Bella?” she asked crisply.
Alright, the room had slowed down. I shook my head. “I don’t know, I – chased her, and – she got away,” I rattled myself mentally. I felt sick. Oozy. Covered in slime. Was this the effect of the portal, or of going from the Pure Lands back into samsara? Because I felt dirty, and certainly less enlightened than I had been just moments ago. Now the decision to ‘heal’ Bella sounded silly. I wasn’t a Buddha! What could I do? And besides, I had another problem that was glaring me in the face right now.
“What happened?” she looked me over. “You don’t seem wounded.”
“I’m not,” I wrung myself free from her grasp. “I just -” and I didn’t know what to say.
FoxFace gave me a cold stare. Then, with every move speaking volumes of disdain, she turned and marched away.
The department I had been shunted into was the ‘paranormal control agency’. Led by FoxFace, it was largely composed of buffbuff men and women with buzzcuts and egos as big as their biceps. I was shunted to a barracks, given a uniform, and told ‘Welcome to the Squad’.
I had promptly dropped the uniform on the floor and snorted. “Yeah, right!” I’d said.
The officer gave me a nasty smirk. “Kid, we have full permission to make your life a living hell, and to ship you back into the lab if you throw a tantrum. So get your uniform on, or you’re going back into the lab to live the life of a petri dish!”
I wasn’t too sure that they actually had any petri dishes large enough to hold my ego but – I scowled and put the uniform on. Just because anything that kept me out of the lab was a good thing. I didn’t want any more needles, tests, or whathaveyou. And if EVER I saw Leo again, I was punching the man. Jerk.
The next few days were… particular. My hair was cut into a short something or other. I met the rest of the squad. They all looked the same, and were significantly taller than me. In the evening they played card games. The next morning I literally fell out of bed (the top bunk, in case you needed to know) when the morning whistle was blown. We all did a ridiculous amount of push-ups and situps for the sake of ‘warming up’.
Then, after a gross serving of food, I was sent to the office of a certain ‘Officer Standish’, who turned out to be FoxFace.
“Good morning,” she said with a sense of bitter humor. I glared at her. Somewhere out through her window, the sun was barely getting up. That meant that, in hell, Lucifer still probably hadn’t finished drinking yet. Literally, no one in hell got up this early.
FoxFace rested her wrists on the edge of her desk. “You look so much more presentable. How are you feeling?”
I scowled and fiddled with my bracelets, which I had been allowed to keep. FoxFace smiled like it was a job well done. “I am glad you’re doing so well. I’ve heard you’re integrating well too, so far at least.”
“Did you hear about the breakfast cereal too?” I sneered. “It was awful.”
“Military food is awful,” FoxFace said, amused. “And I get complaints about it all the time.”
I paused, not sure how to answer to that. FoxFace just looked- so pleased with herself.
After a moment of her silent gloating, I slumped. “What do you want? Why don’t you just let me go?”
“Can’t, and don’t want to. You are part of our new program. Congratulations, you’re our first non-human military personnel. We’re investigating if you will be a valuable asset to the team’s efforts, if you are able to integrate, or if you should be in a team with other ‘paranormal entitites’. So no, I’m not done with you yet. Far from it.”
I gaped. “But-” I wasn’t sure how human military worked, but one thing for sure was – “I never signed anything! You can’t do this! I’m not part of the military!”
“No, you aren’t. You’re just an experiment. So you have no rights and, if I get sick of you, I’ll just kill you and be done with it.” She spread her hands. “But I have your blood, so if ever the need for you arises again, I’ll just call you back. You’re like a recyclable soldier. Prefect, really. Even if the mission goes foul, I can reuse you.”
I felt a wave of nausea. I’d died from Lucifer’s poison. If I died again… Where was I going?
“What? You look upset. You’re immortal, what do you have to worry about?”
I snarled. “I’m not going to be your slave for the rest of my life!”
“Oh don’t worry. When I retire, I’ll pass you on to the next commanding officer. So until the branch gets shut down, which can be quite some time, you’re going to be a ‘slave’ for whoever’s in office,” and she grinned wickedly.
I wanted to punch something. So bad. But I couldn’t just lunge across the desk and kill her. That’d probably turn my soul demonic or something.
Just about ready to see red and purple and all the colors of the rainbow, I rose and stomped from the room.
“Get back here,” FoxFace said coolly. “And sit down.”
I slammed the door behind me and whirled to face her. “What?” I yelled.
FoxFace gave me an obnoxiously patient look. “Sit down, kid.”
I stomped back to the chair and thumped down into it. Crossed my arms and legs and broke just about a thousand military rules with my expression. I wished she would just flip over and die.
“You do not leave unless I tell you so. You do not move, sleep, or breathe unless it’s an order from one of your superiors. Is that clear?”
I glared at her, digging my nails into my arms. I just wanted to hit her so bad. Finally, just because I wanted this to be over with, I nodded.
“Good. Now I wanted you to know that you have one week, today included, to get ready for your first mission. Get to know your team, rest up, and be ready in a week.”
“What’s the mission?” I grumbled, tightening my arms across my chest.
“Take a wild guess,” she said. Then, as if I might be too stupid to make a proper guess, she said “You’re going to catch Bella. Third time’s the charm, you know.”
I rolled my eyes. “You don’t want Bella caught. You don’t want her anywhere near these brain-washable idiots. Trust me. She’s going to take over this place, right out from under you!”
FoxFace remained neutral. “Oh?”
“She-” I caught myself. How much should I tell her about Bella? How much did she already know? But I wouldn’t give away Bella’s secrets. “You’re fucked.”
“Well, if you feel you have any information I should know, feel free to tell me all about it. But if you’e not going to tell me anything useful,” and FoxFace leaned across the desk. I recoiled slightly, and she smirked nastily. “You can leave,” she whispered.
I marched out and slammed the door behind me as hard as I could.