[17] Sage

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I'm not sure how long Jake, Nichole, Xavier, Deirdre, and I stay in the recreational room. It feels like too little time has passed, however, as my arm muscles begin to tire and eventually give out. I can barely even lift them to remove my headphones.

The others seem to be going strong. Well, their activities don't require too many muscles - except Xavier's, and from the looks of it, he's as good at archery as he is at beating people to death with his metal legs.

I sit, stroking the edge of the drumset lovingly. Why would the Albinos do this for us? Maybe to keep us from killing each other while we wait for the Trials to begin. It's becoming a viable possibility.

I am getting slightly tired, but that means next to nothing. The Voice often makes me feel exhaustion of varying degrees throughout the day the day or keeps me awake at night...or maybe that's just a result hormones. Is the Voice still letting me feel something as simple, as human as hormones? I never have emotional breakdowns...my emotions rarely vary - I alternate between sarcastically apathetic and murderous. It's an interesting line of thought.

I hear the sounds of a video game from Jake's station. "Jake," I call in the most annoying tone I can muster. "Jaaaaaaake."

The sounds of the game pause. Sighing, Jake pokes his head around the wall. "What?" He is obviously impatient to get back to his game.

"I'm too weak to play the drums anymore. Can I watch you?"

He hesitates for a moment, then nods. "Sure, I guess." He stands and walks around the wall. Lifting me, he carries me over to his station and pauses. There is no seat for me.

"Just put me on the floor, I'll be fine," I urge. He does so, and I lean against the wall that separates our stations, turning my head so I can watch the projected video game.

Jake is incredibly good at whatever this game is. His fingers fly over the controls effortlessly. He seems calm, even bored, as enemy after enemy falls at his feet. When he boards a hovercraft, he steers it as if he's a stuntman filming a car chase - perfectly chaotically and lethal to more than a few thugs. Soon, I can't keep myself from cheering him on. Or, you know, letting the Voice making me cheer him on.

"This is nothing," Jake says casually as a bold Victory!  fills the screen. "You should see me play something challenging."

"I would fail at this in about three seconds," I point out, the thought amusing me. No, amusing the Voice. Wait, who am I?

"Try it." He flicks to what looks like a level selection page, passes the floppy down to me, and smiles. I hesitantly tap level one.

I yelp as an enemy shoots me before I'm even out of my home base. How did the enemies even get here that fast?

"Wow, five seconds. Impressive," Jake says with a smile on his face. "You broke your personal record."

"I'm good at murdering people in real life. Not this virtual crap," I say irritably, passing the floppy back to him. I see the strained expression on his face from my calm reference to my murders, but the Voice has such a tight rein on me right now that I really don't care.

I watch as he defeats level after level. "I find it odd that you hate killing people so much in real life but you have no problem beating the crap out of virtual ones. Seems like if you love one, you should at least be somewhat okay with the other." Shut up, Voice. You're ruining everything!

Jake tenses, jaw clenching. He doesn't seem as angry as I would expect, though. "I need an outlet for my anger. The people at the insane asylum figured out that it was a good way to take my rage out without...you know...taking my rage out on people."

"Huh. At my insane asylum, their solution was to lock me in the mattress room for three years straight."

"So they really didn't take you out of that straightjacket for nearly three years?"

"Nor was I allowed to eat any solid food that I could somehow turn into small pellets of doom in my machine gun mouth. Or shower while conscious. Or pee."

"You didn't pee for over two years." He sounds highly skeptical for obvious reasons.

"I'm telling you, they knocked me out for everything. They knocked me out to feed me with tubes when they didn't feel like actually feeding me, they knocked me out for doctor's and dentist's appointments, they knocked me out to hit me with a spray of water mixed with soap that they called a shower, and they knocked me out to put one of those tubes in me that extracts urine and waste right from your intestines."

"Holy crap."

"I have grown alarmingly fond of the bathroom next door to my bedroom here. Even fonder of it because the toilet and sink are in the floor, so I don't have to use my nonexistent leg muscles."

"You mean to say that you've been dragging yourself to the bathroom all this time?"

"I've only gone a few times. They gave me those pills that are supposed to slow pee for people who can't control their bladders, except it was just so that they didn't have to knock me out as much. They were worried I'd grow dependant on the meds."

"Did you?" Jake asks quietly. I can tell why this story is sobering to him.

"No." I am discussing my bathroom habits with a boy. This is low, Voice. Real low. "But they gave me that pill twice a day. It'll take a while to get out of my system. A long while. About, like, a year if my calculations were right."

"Wow, Sage, I'm sorry. I act like my treatment was bad."

"You were being slowly weaned off of several drugs that you were almost fatally dependant on. I had my insanity to amuse me, at least. I think you win."

"I shouldn't have to 'win.' It's kind of annoying that you keep making everything violent or bad a competition. Remember how wide-spread and popular it was in the first few decades of the 21st-century to 'play' Pain Olympics? Yeah, you're bringing that back." He sounded increasingly frustrated.

I snorted. "I'm bringing back a better and abridged version. Those lame 21st-century girls tried to pretend they had depression and clinical anxiety and other crap like that. I'm merely discussing our murders, which are our biggest life accomplishments and are completely true."

Jake is silent. The Voice is content with its success. I watch the screen, aware that I have probably taken a step too far. Okay, I've definitely taken a step too far.

"Still, it's annoying," Jake finally mutters, and we resort to silence as his fingers on the floppy grow more forceful.

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