[30] Sage

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I wonder if we will ever be told what the fourth Trial truly was.

It is nighttime and oddly, I can't fall asleep. Previous nights, I've just been able to shut off my brain, but no. The Voice didn't back off when I was trapped for years in an insane asylum, it had to choose the night before a potentially lethal "game" to abandon me.

These thoughts amuse me, however, and do not stem from real anger. I grin slightly - I'm glad I still retain the normal ability to understand sarcasm.

Not that I want to be normal. Oh, it's way too late for normal. The option of normal was shoved from the table the moment that I first killed.

Instead of trapping myself in these hopeless thoughts, however, I think about the here and now.

I think about the strange game that Deirdre and I played on our chess board, and wonder exactly what element made us beat Jake and Nicole, who both were obviously fairly skilled chess players. I think about the Trials, hoping, praying that they will be over soon. I think of Xavier, the way his mechanical legs bent out of shape as the explosion tossed him into the air like a rag doll. I think about Nicole and the expression on her face as I teased - no, bullied - her about her "vampirism." I think about Jake's certainty as he assured me that emotions weren't all so bad.

Most of all, I wonder who will be the next to die.

It is crystal clear to me now. Only one of us is ever getting off this ship, if the Albinos will even let any of us live. The rest will be shredded, ripped, shot, stabbed - perhaps by the victor's hand.

Perhaps by my hand.

I must make a very difficult decision. Since it is obvious that only one of us is leaving the ship, I must choose whether or not I want to win.

Yes. Yes, I do want to win. Don't be stupid, Sage.

But I don't want Jake or Deirdre to die. 

Watching Nicole die, that would be fine. Satisfying, even. It would be best if I could stab her or shoot her or, my personal favorite, snap her neck, but death can claim her and I, for one, will not mourn.

But when I try to imagine Deirdre's tiny body getting peppered with the force of the very metal she shot into so many innocent heads, when I envision Jake toppling slowly over, the light draining from his eyes, I cannot handle it. I cannot let them die. I cannot name the emotion that the ideas of their deaths cause within me, but the feeling is an extremely unpleasant one.

At some point, my thoughts become rather incoherent and then Maggie is shaking me awake for a numbingly familiar routine.

When I enter the weapon room, I get an interesting thought. How long can I just wait in this room until someone - or something - forces me to step into the arena? Would the Albinos simply kill me for insubordination? Probably not, because I'm strangely special to them. Could they even make me leave this tiny room, or would they have to send Jake or some monster they had concocted?

I decide to satisfy my curiosity during some other Trial and step into the darkened room, dual guns strapped around my waist.

The lights turn on. Again, no announcement. Was that just a luxury of the first few Trials?

This arena is a simple shooting range.

There are shooting cubbies, one for each of us, that have dozens of boxes of ammunition sitting on their small counters, the ones that separate us from downfield. About fifty yards away are foam targets shaped like humans. Everything about this looks exactly like a shooting range on Earth, except for the sterile room we are in, which is lacking the usual grime and gunpowder aroma.

I drop the magazine of my left gun and examine it as I step towards one of the cubbies. The magazine is full, but since the safety's on, I'm going to guess that whoever prepared my guns didn't rack it for me. As I do so, it is apparent that I am right as no bullets fly from the chamber.

There is ear protection hanging on the wall of my cubby, but no eye protection. I roll said eyes and cross my toes for luck, as both of my hands are now holding the gun. "If I go blind during this Trial, you sons-of-bitches are to blame!" I shout at the ceiling.

Everyone else is already making their way to their stations. Jake's gun looks tiny and awkward in his huge hands, and he is pointing the gun at his feet, with his finger uncomfortably close to the trigger. Nicole hasn't even taken her guns out of their holsters yet and looks faintly sick as she stares downrange. Deirdre is so ecstatic that she skips to her booth, gun in hand.

I enter my cubby, pull on my noise-reducing headphones, and begin shooting.

Aside from a few stray bullets, I manage to group my shots well, varying it up and aiming for different parts of the man's body occasionally. First I shoot his heart, then his brain, mouth, gut, thighs, arms, and, for the fun of it, groin. Finally, I am out of areas to aim for, even though I have ammo left, so I holster my handguns and glance around the room.

Jake is doing terribly. A few of his bullets have managed to hit the target, but they are sporadic and in odd places, like the edge of the fake man's shoulder. Nicole is doing decently, and seems to be growing more confident as she continues. She is aiming solely for the man's head - not what I would have chosen for a near-beginner, but she's making it work.

Deirdre is amazing.

It looks as though she shot the foam man with one huge bullet rather than many smaller ones; he has a huge hole in his center that I can see straight through, and Deirdre is working on widening its edges. As I watch, she apparently grows satisfied with her work and begins focusing on the neck. I soon realize what she is trying to do and watch in amusement as the poor man's head is completely severed from his foam neck and falls to the ground.

"When you feel ready to return to your changing rooms, you may," a male Albino suddenly says over the announcement system. Jake accidentally shoots the ceiling in his surprise.

Without another shot, I take off my ear protection and leave, not even flinching as Deirdre fires shot after shot, all within a couple of seconds of each other. From the corners of my eyes, I see Jake and Nicole leaving as well. Jake looks embarrassed and terrified. I wish I could calm him.

Deirdre's gun sounds a few more times as my door closes and I know that she will not be returning to us for quite a while.

*

Here's to being sick for two days and getting off of school and this being the only mildly productive thing you do...*facepalm*

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