[6] Sage

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"Hello," I greet the strange woman when it is clear that Jake and Nicole are not going to speak. "I'm Sage."

"I know who you are," she replies simply. Her eyes stare straight at me, but I notice that they are so thickly webbed with cataracts that there is no way she could still have sight.

But then again, nothing about this woman exactly says "human." I have no idea what she's capable of.

Suddenly turning on her heel, she orders, "Follow me." After a pause, we do. What other options are there?

"Deirdre is still asleep. She is so young that the gas almost killed her," the woman explains, as dispassionately as if she is a schoolteacher rehashing the same material for the thousandth time.

I remember growing strangely sleepy in the spaceship for no apparent reason. Nicole fully grasps the situation a second before I do.

"You gassed us?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"So it would be easier to kidnap you."

"Have you ever heard of the term 'sugarcoating?'" I ask mildly.

"I have."

"Have you ever tried... using it?"

"I'm sure you must have many questions. I will answer them to the best of my abilities," the woman replies.

"Why are we here?" Jake demands as Nicole asks, "Where's Xavier?" and I ask, "Is your favorite color white, perchance?" Jake and Nicole both glare at me. The Voice is weakened, but finally, her sense of humor is gravitating more towards mine, and it's easier to just let her take the wheel - I've learned that much by now. Maybe that means I'm giving up once and for all, but I won't think about that right now.

"You are here for the Trials. Xavier is locked in his room. Yes, in fact, it is."

"What are the Trials?" Jake asks as Nicole asks, "Why is Xavier locked in his room?" and I ask, "Why white?" Again, I earn a glare from my companions, and Jake looks sorely tempted to drop me.

"The Trials are a group of tests we perform on Earthlings to learn more about your species - you will be told about them in detail presently. Xavier woke up far before the rest of you and attempted to kill me with his metal legs, which we were kind enough to replace for him. Stark white represents organization and detachment, the two qualities that are the most important to our species."

"Why us?" Jake asks as Nicole questions, "Where are you taking us?" and I ask, the Voice receding finally, "What exactly is your species?" I get a couple of surprised looks for asking such a normal question and fight the urge to scream with frustration - it will never not be annoying to have people acting like I'm a genius for simply being normal. It has always been the Voice, I want to yell at them. Sage is still here.

"We have never gotten the opportunity to study criminally insane human beings before and thought it would make for an interesting experiment - perhaps our most effective thus far. I am taking you to your debriefing room. Any questions about my race will be answered during said debriefing."

We all open our mouths to question her further, but just then, we arrive at the end of the hallway. The woman turns to us, curiosity on her face. "Why is Jake carrying Sage?"

"How did you know I was carrying her?" Jake asks, surprised. "You're blind, aren't you?"

"Not quite," the woman replies with a mysterious smile. "I could only hear two sets of footprints, one of which was large and heavy, the other of which was closer to me. I knew that the heavy footprints were yours and when she spoke, I discovered that Nicole was the one closer to me. Since you are exceptionally strong, Jake, I came to my conclusion."

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