Echo of Chaos: Ch. 10

The day seemed longer than others. It was muscle memory that carried me through the morning Drills. My mind was elsewhere, my eyes constantly searching for the arrival of the Information Delivery or perhaps the Captain himself. After a certain point, I started wishing they would show up, just to take away the gnawing unknowing eating away at my insides.

But then the Captain did show up.

Drills were almost finished when he walked in. I saw him from across the room as if he were moving in slow motion, his small army of guards trailing behind him. It wouldn’t be long before we’d receive our Execution assignments for the day, and as I watched him walk toward Felix, I knew with a sickening dread that he was here to change my assignment. I froze, and my combat partner I was drilling with that day kicked me in the side of the head, knocking me over.

“Oh no! Echo! Are you okay? I totally thought you’d dodge that,” my partner asked, standing over me.

I jumped to my feet, hoping the Captain didn’t notice my fall. I didn’t want him to know he had that kind of power over me. Thankfully, when I stole a glance in his direction, it appeared he was too busy with his conversation with Felix to notice what was going on around him. Felix looked to be arguing with him, his posture rigid in a way usually reserved for the most insubordinate of soldiers.

“Echo?” my partner asked.

I noticed him only because he was standing too close, close enough for me to feel him breathing on me. I took a step back away from him, and turned my attention back to the combat drills, responding with a powerful kick of my own. He fell backwards, but caught himself before he could hit the ground, leaping forward for a counter attack that I managed to evade. As the drill continued, I tried to push everything else from my mind. Perhaps the Captain wasn’t here for me after all. Perhaps he was here for a completely unrelated reason, and I was just getting ahead of myself, allowing my worry for my mother to turn into paranoia. 

When the Drills were finished, the Captain was gone. I glanced around the room for him, but didn’t see him or his guards anywhere. Felix called for the Line Up and we all lined up in the same order we did every day to receive our Execution assignments. If Felix didn’t look so obviously tense, I would have thought I had imagined the Captain being here at all. 

Without breaking formation, I glanced toward Forrest. He stood a few rows ahead of me, at an angle that put him right in my line of vision. Normally, I was grateful for this little bit of contact with him, but today I wished he was closer. I longed to feel the brush of his knuckles against the back of my hand, a gentle assurance that everything would be okay and this hole in the pit of my stomach was nothing more than simple worry.

Instead, I waited in agony for my name to be called, for the sequence of room numbers I would be expected to appear in, ready to perform the Execution of whoever was waiting behind the door. 

“Echo. Room 331. Room 432. Room 124…” Felix listed off the remainder of my assignments, and I memorized the numbers numbly, more out of reflex than actual attention. My attention snapped into focus only when he added, “I’ll be shadowing you today.”

This was unusual. He shadowed me yesterday. We weren’t supposed to be shadowed two days in a row. There was a specific rotation to follow. Why would he be shadowing me again? The twist in my gut intensified. This couldn’t be good.

After we were dismissed to report to our first assignments, I waited for everyone else to filter out first. Felix made his way toward me, and I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Why are you shadowing me again? You shadowed me yesterday,” I asked.

“Captain’s orders,” he said, sounding about as amused as I was. “Now get moving.”

“I see,” I said. “Is that why he was here earlier? To tell you to shadow me again? Why would he want you to shadow me again? Did I do something wrong?”

“I didn’t ask questions. You shouldn’t either.”

“This is ridiculous! Why am I being punished?”

“Stop asking questions, and move!” Felix said, giving me a not-so-gentle nudge with the tips of his fingers.

I rolled my eyes, but did as I was told, heading toward the door. I was to report to room 331 first. That meant I was to report to the first room on the third floor in the third wing. I chose to run up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If he was going to follow me around all day, I was going to make him suffer for it. It wasn’t fair.  Today was not the day to be watched, every moment judged. I wasn’t in the right mindset for this kind of scrutiny, especially when I’d already gone through it the day before.

We reached the third floor, and I noted with slight satisfaction that Felix appeared to be more out of breath than I was. He may have been stronger physically, but I definitely had more stamina. This thought reminded me of what the Captain had said at dinner last night. I was recommended for a promotion. Felix and I would be the same rank soon. Perhaps this is why I was being shadowed again. Perhaps it wasn’t a bad omen. Perhaps it was a good thing.

But I was wrong.

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