[19] Sage

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I wake leisurely, yawning and stretching my arms as I sit up. Smacking my lips, I blearily raise my eyelids.

Deirdre's brown eyes are inches from mine.

"Hello," I say quietly, not put off in the least. "Is everyone just congregating in my bedroom?"

Deirdre steps back, giving me room to move around. I see that this is, indeed, the case. Jake is standing awkwardly in the doorway like he hasn't been in this room several times. Nicole is slumped in the chair by the desk, her gaze focused on the wall rather than me. Xavier is looking out of the window, muttering softly to himself. Maggie is perched serenely on the end of my bed, smiling widely, the only one who looks joyful in the room.

Then I remember what day it is. "Ooh! Trial day!"


We are taken from my room and down curving, intertwining hallways, through doorways whose locations are invisible to us but seem perfectly clear to Maggie. She never slows, even when seemingly headed for a collision with a blank wall.

I look around for cameras or other signs of being watched as we move through the spaceship. There must be facial recognition for the doors or something. After all, us humans can't open them. But I see nothing.

We finally stop in a small, box-like room. Jake, Nichole, Xavier, and Deirdre glance around nervously. I am just slowly growing more anticipatory. Is this tiny room where the first Trial will be?

The Voice is humming softly in the back of my mind. It doesn't usually make noise, but tt is comforting, for once, to know that it will shut down my emotions and complete the Trial in record time, whatever it is. With my newfound muscle strength and the Voice at my side, I know I will win. I know I will go home victorious.

Which makes me remember something one of the Albinos said when we first arrived on the spaceship: Whoever survives is free to go.

What if one of the others dies? Okay, put plainly, I don't give a damn about Nicole or Xavier, but what if Jake dies? Or Deirdre? She's so little, and she doesn't have physical powers like we do. She can only work with weapons - specifically, guns. Will she be supplied with them?

I am starting to stress out. It is such a familiar feeling, from before the Voice, back when my life was normal for a teenage girl. I almost embrace the sickening feeling, before the Voice steps forward and gently turns it off.

Lately, it has felt like the lines between the Voice and myself are blurring. I can't always tell when I am talking and when the Voice is talking. After my bigger acts of rebellion against her, it seems like she has more power, but isn't using it to make me seem insane. She let me connect with the others, after all.

Why? Is it simply to drive me crazy, with this doubt that I even still exist under the smothering blanket of the Voice?

My thoughts are interrupted when a panel in the wall slides smoothly open with outfits on hangers inside. Unlike our current white dresses and pajama-like outfits, these are black and look like a skinsuit.

Deirdre is the first to walk toward them, and she picks out the smallest one. Xavier follows her lead and we do so as well, after a moment's pause.

Maggie moves to another part of the wall and lazily drags her hand across it. Previously invisible doors - five, to be exact - slide soundlessly open and she gestures us forward. "Everyone gets their own room," she explains. As we walk inside our respective rooms, the doors slide seamlessly shut behind us.

I do not even bother attempting to reopen mine. I know it won't budge. Instead, I survey my surroundings.

A mirror. A bench. A clothing rack. That is it, in this tiny, sterile room.

I strip out of my white dress and look at my reflection in the mirror. My legs are still a mess of bruises from when I was practicing - and failing at - walking, and my torso is no picnic, either. I prod a bruise on my stomach and note with cold interest the sharp responding pain.

Throwing my dress in a corner, not even bothering to hang it on the rack, I take a good look at this new outfit. It is completely black except for grey letters across the back that read, "Sage Greene." Smiling giddily, I pull it on.

I expect to have to wrestle the incredibly tight-looking suit on, but it slides smoothly onto my body as if it was made perfectly to fit me. It clings like a second skin, but when I look in the mirror, it isn't actually very revealing. While it shows all my curves, it doesn't highlight every bone and detail. I flex my hands - they look as if they have been dipped in a morphsuit-colored liquid rather than being covered by it. My feet are the same.

I do a few experimental squats and jumping jacks. The suit seems to respond to every movement, never once getting uncomfortably tight or sliding around. When I attempt to take it off, it slithers to the floor instantly, almost as if it would do so without my touch.

I pull the suit back on and flip my long, blond hair over my shoulder. "I like this," I murmur softly. This suit is amazing.

Flipping my hair back over my shoulders, I wish momentarily that I had something to tie it back with. I remember once, I used the hair of one of my victims - her hair was incredibly thick, and as long as I treated the strands gently, three or four twined together made it a wonderful ponytail holder...

See, that's what a Voice thought looks like, the tiny, sane part of my brain informs me.

I sit on the bench, content to wait. For what, I do not know.

After some unknown amount of time passes, a formerly unseeable door in the wall slides open, jolting me out of my half-conscious state. I leap to my feet and peer through the doorway that has appeared next to the mirror.

I can see a katana resting on a pedestal.

Squealing like a two year old on Christmas, I run through the door and gingerly pick up the sword, ignoring the sound of the door sliding shut behind me. This room is even smaller than the last, so I can't practice my swordplay, but I can admire the lovely craftsmanship. It is a simple-looking blade, but when I test my thumb against the sharp edge of the metal, it comes away shining with blood. I suck it until the bleeding stops, unable to look away from my reflection in the metal.

It's been so long since I held a sword. I had used one while murdering an elderly man in his home - he had a pair of them, but I preferred to use one alone. It had been extremely...satisfying.

A door opposite the one that I entered through opens. I can only see darkness through it.

I skip into the pitch blackness and listen cheerily to the door close, trapping me in...wherever this is.

Harsh, glaring lights snap on and I am momentarily blinded as my eyes quickly adjust, the light also reflecting off of the nondescript white floor, ceiling, and walls. When they do, I notice the other sixteen staring at me in astonishment.

Wait. Sixteen?

I count carefully. Four Nicoles...four Xaviers...four Dierdres...four Jakes...

I glance to my right and left. Four mes?

"The first Trial has begun." Maggie's booming voice sounds over hidden speakers. "Who is who? Which four teenagers are the real ones?


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