[16] Sage

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The pill powder, even mixed into the food, is revolting. It absolutely ruins the meal. It tastes like the smell of gunpowder and the aftertaste of vomit, mixed together and topped with moldy cheese. I hate it with a passion.

Nicole watches me with an air of satisfaction as I choke down the formerly delightful noodles. She still isn't eating, but now she is opening her mouth and running her tongue over the surface of her teeth in a rather alarming way. Since I now know she regrets her past murders, however, I know I am safe from her vampiric tendencies.

The doors open and Jake reenters the cafeteria. He is full of newfound energy - when he sits down, he can't seem to stop his knees from jiggling so violently that they slam into the tabletop and upsets my bowl. I start eating straight off of the table, scooping my spoon as if this is completely normal, counting on the sterility of the spaceship to make it safe to do so.

Deirdre is watching Jake apprehensively. I wonder if she even understands what drugs really are, never having had an educating family or gone to a real school. It's quite the wonder that she knows anything at all.

"Did they make you go to school after they caught you?" I ask, genuinely curious.

"Yeah. A little bit. I didn't really listen. I just tore stuff up." Deirdre makes a face at the memory and resumes watching Jake as his huge fingers drum rapidly against the tabletop. They are like a nearly silent, erratic heartbeat - dum, dum, dum, dum.

"I hate to be the person to ask this again," Xavier finally says, "but what now? This is getting really old, all this sitting around."

"I agree with the dealer," I say, earning dirty looks from Xavier and Nicole. "I'm bored." Finally, I have reached the last noodle and I gag as I choke it down, slamming a fist against my chest to make me cough so I can breathe properly again.

Nicole smiles slightly and Deirdre giggles. Jake looks concerned for a moment, realizes that I'm fine, and smiles, as does Xavier.

"Well, looks like my near-death experiences are a source of amusement," I say huffily, crossing my eyes. Deirdre's giggling grows louder.

"So how was physical therapy?" Jake asks as if he has just remembered that I attended, wiping the smile from Nicole's face.

"Okay. Really hard. I'm weaker than I thought." I grin. "Did you know that at the time of my killing spree, I could run for thirty minutes straight, no problem?"

"No, I did not. Interesting," Jake says in an odd, posh voice that hits me in just the right way. I keel over with laughter and can't seem to stop. Soon, tears are streaming from my eyes and it feels like the Voice is dancing on my brain.

Deirdre moves to sit beside me, struggling to hide her grin, and pokes my arm sternly. "Snap out of it!"

I take several deep, shuddering breaths and regain control. "Holy crap," I moan, wiping at my eyes. "I am crazy."

"You're telling me," Jake says cheerily, seemingly not at all thrown off by my impromptu laughing fit. I grin at him and he returns the smile.

Xavier is staring at his food, seemingly feeling awkward, and Nicole is flat out frowning at us. She rolls her eyes when she notices me watching her and turns her head so that she doesn't have to look directly at any of us. "That's right," I say condescendingly. "Have yourself a nice little pout and maybe you'll feel better."

She lunges across the table for me, hissing, her teeth bared, and only Jake's tree trunk arm flying out of nowhere and catching her around the middle stops her from attempting to rip me to shreds. She plops back into her seat, looking shocked and furious with herself, Jake, and me simultaneously.

"So many negative emotions," I note disapprovingly. "Come on, people. Let's be happy!"

The door whooshes open and Maggie enters.

"It's like she can sense the word happy," I stage-whisper out of the corner of my mouth to Deirdre, who hides her smile behind her hand and snorts to cover up a chuckle.

"I was alerted to the fact that you were bored," she says simply, which shuts all of us up. How did she know?

"Okay, where are the cameras?" Xavier snaps after a second of tense silence, turning his head as if expecting a camera to magically appear like on one of those ancient game shows.

"We just have very good hearing, Xavier. No cameras in here." Maggie smiles as if she has told a joke and gestures for us to follow her as she leaves the room. After a moment's pause, Jake stands and walks around the table to pick me up. It's routine now. Going somewhere? Hold on, let me grab Sage. Literally.

The other three follow us. We have nothing better to do and it's probably better to follow Maggie than face the consequences of ignoring her, whatever they may be.

The Albino woman takes many turns and twists through the spaceship, opening hidden doors in the walls until I, for one, am completely lost. Not that I was actively attempting to memorize our path, but even if I was, Maggie moves so fast that no memory could work properly while combating with the need to focus on maintaining speed.

Finally, she stops and the others stop, too, all but Jake trying valiantly to catch their breath. Maggie presses both of her hands against the wall in front of us and leans heavily against it. She mutters something under her breath that is nothing like a noise a human could make and the wall opens vertically, unlike any other door we've seen in this spaceship.

Inside, there are five stations, about the size of bowling alleys with the lengths cut in half. Dark screens shield each from the next, but from the entrance, we can see them all. Each station is tailored to each of our personal tastes, I assume. From what I can gather, it goes from oldest to youngest.

The first station - Nichole's? - has a floppy lying on a pedestal and a comfortable-looking chair next to that. Sure enough, the vampire-like girl hurries over to it, grabs the floppy, shakes it, sinks into the chair, and is lost to the world. Jake's is another cozy-looking chair with a holoprojector in front of it and a game floppy resting on a bedside table - apparently, video games are his thing. He grins but doesn't rush to it like Nicole did, probably because he's holding me. As it is, he starts toward what is obviously my station.

I gape at the electronic drumset, one of the few instruments remaining from what historians and musicians alike call the Original Musical Wave. Whooping in delight, I wriggle as Jake sets me carefully in the backed seat and leaves to go to his station. As Xavier heads to his archery range and Deirdre begins watching movies on her holoprojector, I start banging on the drumset, letting what frustration, rage, and confusion I possess pour out of me as the drumsticks hit the set with force I didn't know I had in me.

I close my eyes and let the sound of the drums carry me away.

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