I awakened to Alaric kicking me in the side. “I can’t believe you!” he yelled. I was… dreaming that I was a girl? A white girl? I knew this wasn’t the sign of an identity crisis but darn it if you told someone about it even offhandedly around there you’d be on six meds before you told them it was a one time thing.
Alaric continued to rant and rave. “I thought Clover was just fussing about nothing! How could you get caught by a sleep spell?”
“Well I am still in rank C.” I muttered hoping to quiet him.
“Don’t give me that! That’s trainee crap! Do you know what kind of trouble you’re going to be in when the captains find out? Do you know how many casualties we had?” Alaric yelled grabbing my collar.
“You must be well today.” Is it me or is he more aggresive than usual.
“Hey! You said you were gonna go easy on him!” Clover yelled hitting him over his head with a clipboard.
He dropped the front of my shirt and crossed his arms, “Well, it’s too late now. We’ll talk about it later.”
The bunker we’d fled to had many more students and soldiers in it than when I went to sleep. Clover went to gather healers. Alaric went to take attendance. I assigned beds. We must have had a lot of casualties. There were never enough beds in these bunkers but when I was done assigning them they had beds left over. As soon as we were done with assignments the recoveries started. Even after their wounds were healed everyone still looked miserable and defeated.
“Kaseko! Stop spacing out! You’re a soldier. We need an emergency meeting!” Alaric yelled dragging me off to the conference room.
This guy… needs to make some other friends.
The meeting was even more sparse than I’d expected in the department of higher-ups and authorities. The room was crowded but there were four captains and no other higher-ups.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
Captain Akuna stepped forward. “We suffered a huge loss today and it wasn’t just because of their strange weapons but also because of infiltration. Several of our lieutenants and majors were spies. They came with the goal to work from the top down. They knew the exact location of anyone in charge of strategizing and command and went straight for them. Lieutenant Isoke gave us the order to fall back while she created a distraction. We haven’t heard from her since.”
“So then, how shall we proceed?” Alaric asked.
“The main objective is to reclaim the rest of our base. However that takes force that we don’t have. There’s also the possibility of there being more spies. They specifically targeted the higher-ups in that attack. For now we’re going to monitor everyone more closely. I want them all to give me an account of what they’ve been doing. There will be several people on guard at all times and they will be selected at random. Kaseko, I want you and all rank C and D soldiers to begin preparing the newer recruits. I’d like you to hand out the files assigning each unit.” Captain Akuna handed me a thick stack of papers, separated into groups by paper clips.
Train new recruits? That’s ridiculous! If it’s as bad as it looks the people who died today had been here training for years! This is suicide!
“You look doubtful.” She said focusing a glare. “But I guess you’ll be able to express that to me while you’re giving your account of why you fell asleep at your post.”
Gee, thanks for putting that out there in front of everyone.
At the end of the meeting I returned with more worries than answers. Clover read over her orders and spat her coffee out, “The hell? This is ridiculous! These are just kids!”
“The orders are still secret until it’s disclosed by one of the captains.” I said wiping coffee off of my face.
“It’s just that…”
“Well, we’ve been pretty much backed into a corner. It’s a losing situation. Maybe things will get better when we get in contact with the other branches.” I explained. By the time I was done passing it out I wasn’t even bothering to explain. No one liked the order but even worse than the order was the meaning of something so reckless being considered after only one day.
To our knowledge before our enemies didn’t have “magic” and power over fire and ice. They had guns. You pulled the trigger and it fired a round of lead into your skin faster than the speed of sound. They also had explosives and guns that shot explosives. But now they had enough knowledge in place to nearly destroy the school in one day and spies in place to keep them aware of when we switched tactics. There was no way that they’d infiltrated our school without learning how to use magic. After Alaric came out of giving his account he looked completely drained.
“You okay?” I asked lightly punching him in the shoulder.
“I’m fine. Unlike the most of my squadron I’m alive and well.” He said heading straight to his bunk. He didn’t even change out of his clothes before lying down. More than the expression on his face, that breach of protocol told me that he was not “fine.”
I gathered up my group of thirty-three students. But it wasn’t until I saw them all standing together that I’d recognized them, Senna’s parents and Taylor. I was supposed to be explaining to them the training times but I just stood there, stammering and trying not to point.
They don’t recognize me? Come to think of it, what are their names?
“I know you must be tired of attendance calls but please bear with it one last time.” I said going through the list of names. “For the sake of clarity I’m going to need you to wear name tags for the first… week.” Clarity, not because I’m terrible with names. I’d been dorm mates Alaric four years and only found out his name five months ago.
“Aaron Talmut bunk 6698.” Aaron had straight black hair and a perpetual scowl on his face. He was also up to my shoulder and in his sheep covered pajamas at the time. I feel like I’m pulling recruits out of a daycare.
As I went down the list I wrote a description of each one but nixed it after I realized the clothes someone was wearing and the look they had on their face wasn’t going to help me recognize them the next day. I just decided to note who was there and mark what names my parents and Taylor raised their hands at.
“Annika Lynde bunk 8903” Senna’s mother saluted, “Present.” She said. She didn’t look like she could’ve been related to me and she certainly didn’t look old enough to be my mother. She had straight blonde hair and dark blue eyes like Alaric, definitely not me. But she definitely looked like Senna’s mother. I tried not to seem distracted and continued.
Her father didn’t salute or even raise his hand when I called his name. “Darien Haines bunk 8906 He barely looked up. “Uh yeah. I’m here.” He said. He wore think glasses and had messy but otherwise straight black hair and black eyes. He was the same guy who’s tablet I took before.
Japser was also in my group, the Machiavelli of the group from earlier.
Taylor was also in my group. He stared intently as if he were silently challenging me. He looked angry. I was very content to ignore it.
“T-Tasuguru? Huh? Um… Tasuguru Essien bunk…”
“The t is silent.” Tsuguru said looking up from his game of dominos. “Present.” He stood up and saluted without waiting for me to correct the pronunciation. Out of this group I would say that Tsuguru’s eyes made him stand out. They had a strange shape to them I hadn’t seen before.
“We have no time to lose so we will begin training tomorrow. I will be briefing you on our situation and overall objective. Until then you are all dismissed.” The average age of my group was sixteen. Despite the news I was delivering they were excited. They didn’t know much about what was happening and they certainly didn’t know the amount of losses we had to have suffered to start preparing them for the front lines.
“I can’t wait to see some action!” Nyako said hopping off to her bed.
I wanted to go to bed even though I wasn’t really tired after my nap. I just wanted to be able to close my eyes and not think about how bad the situation had become. However I still had to give my account before I went to bed.
Captain Akuna was at her desk. I sighed having my hopes dashed that I’d been giving my account to someone nicer, like Satan. “Do you realize that in a less extreme situation that you would be court marshaled for cowardice and abandoning your post?” she asked.
“I was struck by a sleep spell.” I said.
“Your shield was supposed to be up.” She said.
“Over seventy other people.” I said. “We had a large group and only three people capable of putting up a shield.”
“You should have let it hit someone else.” She said.
“It came with a complementary fireball.” I explained. “I followed the procedure.”
“Falling asleep on the job is never part of the procedure. Even if it hit someone else they don’t have the level of training or you do and it would be a far more acceptable loss than our top magic user. On the bright side you’ll have a chance to more than make up for it. As you already know, you’re going to be training a lot of younger kids. Since no one your own age would actually listen to you, I think you should be pleased. Do me a favor and put a mark by every foreigner’s name on this sheet. Keep a close eye on them.”
“So the definition of foreigners is…”
“Anyone with white skin. I don’t care what the shade is. Keep an extra close eye on Tsuguru.”
Would they really be dumb enough to use spies that stick out so easily? Besides…
“You have white skin.”
“Get out of my office.”
She never wanted an account in the first place. She knew that I’d been in this academy as long as I could remember. She’d already heard what happened and made up her mind about what she would accept about it. It was actually rather inconsequential but the meeting still left a bad taste in my mouth. Both the decision to start training child soldiers and marking foreigners for observation both seemed like a decision that could be made a little less callously than it was.
Clover was called in next. “Ugh, tell me it’s not Akuna.” She muttered.
“Sorry.” I shrugged.
Her shoulders dropped. “Just so you know, it wasn’t me who said you were sleeping on the job. You can thank Jasper for that.” She said before she walked into Akuna’s Office.
I headed for my bunk where Taylor was waiting. “So, this is where you go. It’s quaint I suppose. I wouldn’t call it ideal. Your parents are alive. Only Alaric picks on you and People actually have to pay attention to you… in a war.”
“I.. don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’re feeling out of it I can still sign you up for a psyche evaluation.” I said.
“Oh Senna, you have no need to pretend you don’t recognize me and you certainly have nothing to gain from it.”
“My name is Kaseko.” I said crossing my arms. “I’m tired and I’ll see you tomorrow when it’s time for assessments. So get out of my bed.”
He got up without complaint and left
He’s in both worlds and he thinks I’m Senna in this world…
This could be a problem.