“This is not a drill! I repeat this is not a drill. All rank B and above soldiers suit up and move to the gym immediately. You will be briefed on your mission there. All rank C and D soldiers assist the uninitiated students into the bunker. Time is of the essence so move quickly.” It was normal to hear sirens in a practice drill. There was a practice drill every week.
It never came with an annoucement. Even though I couldn’t really make out what the announcer was saying I knew this was a bad sign. this was the beginning of the war that everyone talked about but no one believed would happen in their lifetime.
“Kaseko! What are you doing? Stop musing and go evacuate people!” Alaric yelled snatching me out of my seat. He was already in uniform as usual.
I stood on the table, “Okay we’re going to go through the northern corridor and down the emergency stairs. Everyone needs to stay within the group. Keep as close to the inner walls as possible.” I said. Some people lined up. Some didn’t. In a drill if you didn’t respond and continued what you were doing priveleges around Nobel would be lost until you showed appropriate response during the drill. In the actual event some of them even ran off on their own. By the set standard, I wasn’t allowed to pursue them.
Alaric handed me a megaphone. “Try this. Be more assertive. I need to head out.”
“Well! What are you all waiting for? Get out! There are people on the lines risking their lives for your sakes! Get going!” I yelled snatching the nearest person’s tablet.
“Hey!” They yelled reaching for it.
I held it out of their reach, “Get in line before I break it.” He got in line grumbling obscenities under his breath.
Some people lined up and two sank further into their chairs. No sense in waiting for these guys. We left without those two but when the building shook they caught up. The northern corridor was the furthest away from any outside walls of the school but it had glass windows on both sides and the views were not encouraging. Under us there was an all out war. Even if you didn’t look out at the smoke, fire and body parts littering what ground you could see, you could hear the shots fired and every explosion shook the entire corridor.
“We’re not going to look outside at what’s going on.” I said in the megaphone.
What were these people thinking making a corridor that overlooked the campus out of glass in a military institution? Fortunately the glass was only see through one way and very heavily reinforced. Otherwise we’d have been sitting ducks for an outside attack.
Despite my advice I was secretly glancing out the window and from what I could tell, we were losing rather badly.
Eventually we caught up to another group. Several of them were injured. “Phew! There’s another group here. We have a lot f people woun… oh it’s you.” Clover said narrowing her eyes.
“Don’t give me that; we need to do our jobs right now!” Don’t get me wrong, this woman had reasons to be mad at me. It just wasn’t the time or place.
“Yeah, yeah. I We need more people who can carry some of our wounded. A fireball landed in the dorms.” She explained.
“We don’t have any healers here?” I asked.
“Not yet. These people are the new recruits. They haven’t even been through any actual training yet.”
“So in other words, they’re dead weight.” A man behind me said adjusting his glasses. “We should just leave people who can only slow us down rather than risking good soldiers.”
“You should learn the protocol and transfer if you don’t like it.” I said. I was tempted to punch him in the face and break his glasses but I didn’t feel like being court marshaled for it later so I ignored him. He was talking about himself in that statement.
I growled under my breath but the task at hand was far more urgent than his statement, “Carry this one.” I said handing him a girl who seemed to be unconscious.
“I-It might be dead already.” He said touching her arms and quickly withdrawing his hand before picking her up. The look of horror dropped when he realized she wasn’t stiff and cold as if she’d been dead for a couple of hours.
We were told not to run during these situations. In the drill everyone walked. At the moment everyone was running as fast as they could. Clover stayed in front to direct and I stayed behind to make sure no one fell behind. The stairs were a mess. Several places were frozen solid while others were melted completely through. “Everyone capable of putting up a shield should have their fully armed. If you have enough power to cover someone else then please do so.” Clover announced.
Aside from Clover and I only Nietzsche was capable of keeping up a shield and he certainly wasn’t thinking about sharing. We’d almost made it to the underground base when a fireball landed right behind us The heat alone seared through art of my shield sending me and four others flying forward. Screaming is not allowed on the battlefield but none of the newer recruits knew that. I gritted my teeth choking down the uncharacteristic obscenities I wanted to yell. It wasn’t that hot. I repeated that in my mind several time as I checked on the others. But I was scortched and slightly dizzy.
“Damn it Kaseko! Your shield is supposed to be up!” Clover yelled before coming back. “Your clothes are burnt.”
“Just a little.” I said.
“Alaric better not fuss at me about this later!” She said pushing me forward.
After we got in everything seemed hazy. Yeah, this must be why I’m still in rank C. To be so out of it after being missed by one paltry fireball is lame by any measure. And to add to this insult I was really sleepy. After I assigned bunks to the students we looked for a medic. There weren’t any so we had to resort to using potions. On my way out the door to continue what I was doing I realised that my mind was playing a trick on me. I was lying in bed.
Aren’t I supposed to be evacuating more students?
But more than falling asleep I was waking up. I sprang up and nearly fell out of my bed. How did I get here? I looked around the dingy, grayish-white walls of the hospital room I was in. The walls were supposed to be white but somehow they looked dingy. The water damage showing on the tiled ceiling didn’t help it’s appearance.
A man came in talking to a doctor. “She was awake just earlier but she seemed very confused. She checks out physically but we’re going to write her some follow-up referrals so she can set an appointment and get her head checked regularly just to see if anything develops. We weren’t able to break the news to her. She’s still barely coherent.”
“I see. Well it’s better that I check on her when I have the opportunity regardless. After all, you never know what the future brings.”
The man who wasn’t dressed like hospital staff approached me. “Senna?” He had flowers and a teddy bear. He held them out, “Can you talk?”
I pointed at myself, “Me?” I asked. Who the hell is Senna?
“Yes, you. I was just talking to the doctor so I’ve already cleared that with him.” He said. And you’re bringing me flowers? Are you trying to insult me? Maybe he’s just lost.
“Yeah, but I think you have me confused with someone else. My name is Kaseko. I…” I looked down to find that I was White, female and certainly not built like a soldier. But I knew better than to correct these people while in custody. I’d be carted off to an asylum in half of a heartbeat. But at the same time I was angry, enraged even. Where the hell am I? And what’s with this half-wit standing over here waiting for me to take these flowers that I obviously don’t want? We’re under attack! I don’t have time for these shenanigans! Maybe it’s a hallucination-type spell. I better not cast any spells while I’m here. I could really screw something up.
I clenched my fist, “I just woke up. Had a really weird dream.” I shook my head. “Um, thanks.” I said grabbing the flowers and the stuffed bear. “When can I go home?” I asked.
“I’m afraid it’s not so simple… You see… you were involved in a car accident. Your parents have… passed away.” The doctor said. Even his pauses sounded rehearsed but it probably couldn’t be helped given that he probably had to say something along these lines every day.
I stood up, “I would like to see them one last time in the morgue, now if possible.” I said.
The doctor tried to talk me out of it. The other man tried to talk me out of it. Everyone’s behavior was solemn and I while I tried to act appropriately I was really confused about this whole thing. I was taken to the morgue to identify the bodies and I thought I was going to have to put out some crocodile tears. I already had the fake expression of pain on but when I saw them, it was like something had knocked the wind out of me. I didn’t feel like performance crying. I ran out.
My parents were almost unrecognizable yet without being able to remember their faces or names I recognized them. I felt sick the rest of the day.
Was I just dreaming? Why didn’t seeing those body part littered across the fields turn my stomach in knots like this? Why do I feel so sick now after what happened in the school today? Do I know them?
I still didn’t know the name of the man who brought me the flowers and stuffed bear even after the doctor gave him the okay to take me back to his house. He didn’t look much older than me but he didn’t look like me either. The trip home was silent, awkward and uncomfortable. He offered me some dinner but I didn’t have much of an appetite. I was allowed to sleep in a room labeled “Taylor’s Office.”
Hmm, I haven’t asked him his name yet. Does that mean he could have a roommate? I guess it doesn’t concern me.
By then I was arguing with myself inside my head. I wrote down or drew everything I remembered on Taylor’s printer paper. But the details of my life were coming to my dorm after a rough day of training and Alaric yelling at me that I was slacking, Being last in line for breakfast every day and getting the burnt portion at the bottom of the pot. Skipping class to avoid the Mr. Kavorsky, the human sprinkler. none of th things I remembered took place away from the school.
The only thing that even remotely tied me to this world was the possibility that the bodies I looked at were my parent’s bodies. Parents are a foreign concept at Nobel.
Then I felt a very familiar pain, the burn in my back from the fireball. I wanted to look at it in the mirror but I was too embarrassed. If it turned out I wasn’t Senna which seemed likely… It would be awkward later. She’d have a lot of reason to be mad at me as well. After all I was a grown man and judging by the fact that Senna can’t go home by herself she must not be legally an adult in this country.
Besides if I’m not real, Alaric, Clover and the rest of my classmates aren’t…
“Kaseko! Wake up! How could you fall asleep at your post like that?”