Over the next few days, the man who’d introduced himself as Turner had done has he’d promised. He seemed familiar with the this place and did his best to help even when my other side had different ideas. He could read people quickly and noticed whenever I started to grow tense and distant. I hated that he’d left me alone whenever I got like that, though. It wasn’t like I could control that other side of myself…
“Okay, so for this section here, it asks what you think it takes to be a hero and why you deserve a chance to become one.” He said before handing the pages over to me.
The guards had allowed him to come into my holding cell despite their concern for the man’s well-being. It was strange having someone close enough to me that I could grab hold of a rip apart once again. Even with the limiters in place and that blasted shock collar holding me back, I found I could still do quite a bit of damage. Turner trusted me despite this, though. I wasn’t sure if he was being bold or a freaking fool by doing so. This feeling was familiar, but I shrugged it off as quickly as it came.
Along with the destructive urge came something else. It was then I realized how lonely I’d been in here. The company had been strict on who I was allowed to into contact with and kept me at a distance when it came to most forms of contact, so much so I almost hungered for any form of it. I didn’t want to admit this, though. Hell, I’d never do such a thing.
“Number Nine, is something wrong?”
“No.” I read the papers over the best I could and slowly filled them out.
“Right. Let me know if you have any questions, alright?”
“Yeah, I’ll be sure to do that.” I replied with a hint of annoyance in my voice.
“Listen, there aren’t many options we have here. You committed many crimes during the time you were out on your own. It was originally planned to have you killed, but I convinced them to have a change of heart.”
“It’s what’s going to happen eventually…” I mumbled.
“I’m aware of that, but you still have potential, remember.”
“Can I read over what you’ve written down so far?”
I hesitated and felt the stress creep up my back.
“You haven’t been sleeping.” Turner commented with no emotion behind his words.
“Not very well, no.”
“It will get better, alright? I promise you that. I just need you to be driven as I am when it comes to this.”
“I don’t understand why you even care.”
“It’s my job-”
“Yeah, you’ve told me that countless times. No one’s cared this much in the past, so why the hell would you? This goes beyond any ‘job’, I know it!”
He was silent and seemed to be choosing his words carefully when he spoke again.
“I lost someone in the past. They went down a dark path. I couldn’t save them. I saw them fall apart right in front of me and I was too blind to notice what they were going through.” There was pain in his dark eyes which had me thinking I’d gone a little too far with my words.
“I almost went the same route, allowing myself to break over and over again. In my darkest time, I had someone come to me, someone who needed guidance. I knew it hadn’t been too late for them. Long story short, they’ve come such a long way. They were once used a tool by a organization like you, but they took their life into their own hands and are making the best of it. The kid’s become a hero now. I’d hate to imagine where either of us would’ve ended up if we’d never met.”
“Look, I don’t want to lose another one to the same circumstances, especially if it can be prevented. Like I said, I can see potential in you. Don’t you think you deserve the chance to see it the same way I do? It shouldn’t have to take a tragedy for you to see it, however…”
“Okay. You’re right. I still feel so much doubt, but I know I have to move forward. There’s no life here for me, otherwise.”
“That’s good to hear, now let’s go over your answers, alright?”
“Yeah, sure.” I said as I handed the papers back to him.
Once we were done with the paperwork, which had me read up on what they’d already filled out for me. One of which had been my supposed name which I was certain they’d just made up on the spot. The rest I filled out the best I could. Turner had informed me that it would take a while for it all to be processed, but reassured me that I’d be the first to know if anything changed. In the meantime, we spent the days talking about the same things. There was only so many times I wanted to discuss my future. My words from before had upset him, I knew it. I was, however, garbage with most social things and didn’t know what to do about it.
I decided that I couldn’t just leave something like that hanging in the air and to at least try to make things a little better for us both.
“Hey, uhh…I’m sorry about the other day. I pushed too far with the whole job thing.”
“Huh? Ah, no don’t worry about that. You deserve to know, anyway.” He shrugged while continuing to look through his phone.
Damn, if that wasn’t it, then I had no clue! Why did I even care to begin with?
“It’s not important right now.” He cut me off, frustration clear in his voice.
I was too shocked to reply and just kept quiet. I scratched the back of my neck where the collar was out of how awkward I felt. We both sat in silence for a while. Neither of us said anything and when it was time for him to leave, he hadn’t said anything to me before he left through the door. Just what had happened with him?
Turner didn’t return for nearly a week. I had no one to talk to in here and the guards had been ordered not to converse with me. I thought I was going insane and felt my other freaking personality start to merge with my own. I dug my nails into my hands and along my arms to try and distract myself. It was enough to force it back for now, but I hoped that this wouldn’t be what it took to drive it away every time.
I wasn’t sure how long it was until he finally returned, but he had it was clear that he hadn’t slept and seemed even more distant and bothered than before. I didn’t want to pry and again push him away, so I chose to keep things light and short. He hadn’t said anything after coming in and taking a seat across from me. He was sitting behind the glass. For some reason, that really hurt somehow.
“Where…have you been?” I asked, hoping I’d get an answer.
“I’ve been busy.”
There was silence again and I just couldn’t find what to say to him. I watched him as he took out an envelope and slipped it under the glass. I raised an eyebrow before going over and picking it up.
“Your acceptance letter.”
“Yeah, just don’t lose it.”
I opened it and read the print on there. I should be happier that I got the chance to change things in my life, but there was this doubt that I just couldn’t shake. My mind was kept busy as I dwelled in my own thoughts. I didn’t notice that I was digging my nails into my hands again.
I heard Turner get up to leave.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be alright, Nine.” He spoke quietly.
“It sounds like I won’t see you again..?” I frowned.
“As if it’ll be so simple for you to get rid of me so easily.” He laughed wryly.
“I wasn’t asking for that…”
He sighed and turned away.
“The Academy has a bus that will take you and the other students to the school grounds in a few days. I suggest you prepare yourself mentally for adjusting to this new change. I’ll drive you to where pick up zone is, but after that you’ll be on your own for a while. Don’t do anything rash, got it?” Turner looked back at me with a serious look in his eyes.
“Aw, you’re telling me I’ll still have to wear these dumb things?” I asked, tugging on the stupid collar.
“It’s for the best. I’ll meet with you there once I work out our schedules at the Academy.”
“Well…I don’t know about you, but I think…I mean, I guess I wouldn’t mind that.”
“Right. I’ll see you then.” He gave me one last look before leaving.
My thoughts ran through my head over in over during those few days. I still had so much doubt, but I had to keep reassuring myself that I could do this. I had to. There was no other choice. The organization was going to kill me otherwise. I read the acceptance letter over and over. They were either foolish or bold to allow me this chance to begin with. That reminded me of something, but I couldn’t grasp it. A heavy, dark feeling came with it, so I shoved it off and focused back to the words on the letter.
When the day finally came, I had fallen asleep somehow and was in a deep slumber when I was shocked awake by Turner, who was standing behind the glass. I mumbled angrily before sitting up and spitting out several colourful words.
“Not a morning person, huh? You’ll have to work on that.” There was a slightly amused tone to his voice.
“Why the hell would you do that!?” I demanded, feeling my anger fill my mind.
“You weren’t waking up. We can’t be late, can we?”
“Ugh, yeah, sure.” I shook my head.
“The guards will come by soon with a change of clothes. You’ve been wearing those rags since they caught you again. A new life calls for a new look, don’t you think?”
“Fine. Are they, uh…at least kind of baggy? I don’t want to have anyone see…I mean…” My voice trailed off as I failed to find the words.
“I’m sure you’ll find them good enough for now. I’m sure you’ll get the chance to pick out something that better suits your style once we meet up later.”
“Okay. Can you get out so I can change? I don’t want you staring, old man.” I mumbled after the guards came in and dropped a few bags next to the door.
“Let me know when you’re done.” He nodded before leaving out through the door he’d come through.
I hesitated at first. I didn’t like the idea of me being watched while my guard was down. Shaking the feeling off, I tried on what they got for me, which was nothing more than a grey sweater and loose pants which just barely hid my tail, which I slid down one of the pant legs. I hated the stupid thing. I was different enough already, for fuck’s sake…
When I was done wallowing in my own misery, I went up to the glass and tapped on it.
“Hey, old man. I’m done.”
When I didn’t hear anything, I grew annoyed and ran my nails down the glass, causing a screeching noise to fill the room. He came through the door moments later.
“I guess two can play at that game, huh?” Turner said, giving his phone one more look before setting it away. “You ready to go?”
“Isn’t there anything else I need?”
“Don’t worry about that for now. Let’s just get you there, first.”
“Right. Are you sure I have to keep wearing this stupid collar, though? I’m sure I’ll be good, I swear.” I smirked, hoping he’d fall for it.
“Not happening. Let’s go.” He left out the door behind him before coming around the other side to unlock the one the lead to my cell.
“Aw, man…” I walked out with him at my side and out towards my future.