The earth-shattering scream maxed out the speakers as I leaned over to the system and quietly muted it. The new recruits always had a hard time the first week, but this one had been much wilder than anticipated when presented with the choice we all made.
I’d steered clear of this one after the initial intake. Something didn’t sit right, but Ryan had insisted I take point on her indoctrination, so here I was.
There was no doubt in my mind that she’d fall in line eventually. Everyone did. At Section Five, there were far worse things than death and no one wanted to experience them. The choice to conform wasn’t easy, but they all did sooner or later.
I’d brought in many recruits for Ryan and Sonya, even though I’d never experienced indoctrination from the recruit’s side. My choice was different, but I’d still made the choice. I hadn’t fought this shitty life. I’d embraced it, was even grateful for the chance.
What did that say about me?
Easy, unhindered steps clicked across the tile floor behind me. I resisted the panic that swelled inside, my body tensing with the effort. The hairs on the back of my neck stood in alarm, but I didn’t move as she stopped next to me, watching the girl through the looking glass.
Sonya’s calculating gaze shifted from the frustrated girl inside to me. The pure glee on her face—impossible to mask even if she did try it—at someone else’s pain sickened me straight to my gut, nauseated me so much I wanted to bolt for the door. But I stood fast; I wasn’t willing to give the evil hag the pleasure of my discomfort. She wanted that, craved it even. I wasn’t going to appease her.
“She is too dangerous to be here,” I said, breaking the silence with my first objection. I was one of the few that could speak to Sonya like this, almost like an equal. It came with the territory when you volunteered for shit duty like I did. Ten years in this place, serving as Ryan’s go-to gave me that right.
Something wasn’t right with that girl, and that was the real problem, not Sonya. Sonya, I could handle. Naomi Lawless didn’t fit the Section Five profile, and that nagged at me, like a churning deep inside my gut. But Ryan wanted her, and I always did what Ryan wanted.
“I like her,” Sonya replied. “She’s perfect.”
Perfect for what? Breaking this one wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t going to handle the choice well, if at all. I could see the defiance in her eyes, in the way she fought against the intake. Section Five recruits all had a little bit of that sheep instead of the lion in them, no matter how hard they acted on the surface. She was a survivor, but definitely not a sheep. That wild lion instinct ran deep inside her.
“You can’t control her,” I said, just as the girl flipped her cot over. Fuck, she was strong for such a little thing. “She’s too strong-willed, too much will power. She doesn’t fit the profile, as I said before.”
Sonya laughed, as she always did when she didn’t agree with me. “I know she doesn’t. That’s the point. But we need her. She’s intelligent. Calculating. Even in her current state, she’s running a hundred different scenarios in her mind to attempt escape again.” Sonya smiled. “She’s smart and she will go far, this one.”
“She’s too emotional.”
“They all are, at first. She just needs the right guidance and training. Just like the others.”
I shook my head. “Not like the others. She won’t let go.”
“They all make the choice eventually. Some just take longer.”
The psychological profile we used had been put into place a few years back to aid in finding the right recruits, the ones that would have no issue with killing, following orders, and who would be perfectly happy in the choice to conform.
This one didn’t fit that profile. Not exactly. She had some of the aspects. She was a loner. Distrustful. A criminal, though her worst crime was stealing people’s safe deposit boxes. Usually, we picked recruits from death row, the real depraved killers. She had some minor mental instabilities, born from her childhood, most of which she probably wasn’t even aware she had yet.
“She has no life beyond us, Daniel. Zeke is wiping her out as we speak. What Naomi needs now is structure and guidance. She needs a purpose to put her straight, to push her toward becoming the greatest asset we’ve ever acquired.” Sonya looked so proud of herself. “She will be beautiful.”
“Not if she won’t let go of her past.”
“Oh, Daniel. You’re such a worry wart. She’s not Kala.”
I tensed, balling my hand into a fist to keep from backhanding the sadistic bitch for even mentioning my half-sister. Of course, she’d probably mentioned her just to get a rise out of me. The bitch delighted in seeing how far she could push me.
“Kala never found peace here.”
Peace. None of us ever found peace. We resigned ourselves, mostly. If the horrors of our lives weren’t enough, the nightmares would put us all over the edge.
“Naomi will let go and come to us on her own terms with very little prodding. We will help her see the light.”
Sonya did that to most people, though. Pushed them where their limits were thin. That was how she broke Jet. My brother hadn’t been the same since Kala had died. He’d always been somewhat unpredictable, but now he’d withdrawn and grown quiet with each passing day. Our brother, David, was missing, and I had a feeling Sonya knew where he was. Jet thought so too, and that knowledge had pushed him close. Kala’s death had sent him over the edge. He’d almost become a different person after her death.
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” I said. As if in punctuation, beyond us, the girl grabbed a chair and threw it at the glass in front of where we stood. The chair was metal, but it merely bounced off the reinforced glass, adding to the scratches from previous recruit fits.
“I need another session with her,” Sonya said, her eyes bright with the hunger of having a new recruit to mold and play with. They were just projects to her, not people. I tried not to think of them as people too, but it always snuck up on me when I least expected it.
“She’s tearing apart the room.” I reached up to tag my ear piece but her cool hand covered mine. Gross disgust slithered through my body, from my hand where she touched me all the way to my gut.
“Let her have it out.”
Like hell. This was how they hurt themselves. At this point, many of them were too wrapped up in their own emotions to realize their strength. Many times, they ended up with pulled muscles or broken bones or any other multitude of self-harm incidents.
“I’m getting her restrained,” I stated coldly. I couldn’t watch her hurt herself anymore. I hated watching the recruits at this stage, when they were still acclimating to being Section Five, and before they made the choice. They hurt themselves a lot at this stage, whether it was intentional or not. For some reason, I just couldn’t watch this one do it.
“Security, strap the new recruit down again before she hurts herself.” I paused, an afterthought occurring. “And steer clear of her mouth this time.”
“You’re not any fun today,” Sonya said in an almost pout.
Fun. This was what I hated about Sonya. Other people’s misery was fun.
I said nothing as four guards stormed into the room, rounding up Naomi even as she fought with practiced ease. Within a few minutes she was strapped to a gurney, her screams matching the jolts her body made as she struggled against her bindings. She already had rope burns and bruises on her wrists from fighting previous restraints.
I think that was what I liked best about this one, though. She fought, like no other, even though she had to know she couldn’t win. It was a mindset Section Five wanted in sparing doses. They wanted someone who would fight to the death for them, but not someone who would be so headstrong they would fight them. They wanted someone who was willing to take the risks and unable to accept defeat, but was easily manipulated. That wasn’t Naomi Lawless. She was anything but easily manipulated. She was unstable, yes, but there was something about her… Powerful and uncontrollable.
She was one that would upset the status quo. She was one that would never conform. She was free will personified. She’d never thrive at Section Five, not like others. She’d always want more. I shook my head. “I’m going to recommend termination.”
“No, Daniel,” Sonya said. “I won’t allow that. She’s perfect.”
“She’s a mistake,” I said. “We need to cut losses on her and move on to the next. You’re not going break her.” Not to mention, I didn’t want to watch such a beautiful soul die in Section Five. I wanted to set her free as much as she wanted to be free. Unfortunately, at this point in the intake process, death was the only humane way to do it.
Sonya’s eyes shone with fierce determination. The calculations were already racing through her mind on how to break the poor girl. I could see it.
“I don’t want to break her,” she said. “I want to fix her. Bring her to my office. I’ll work on her. You’ll see. She’s going to be fantastic.”
The words cut through my chest like a sliver of broken glass. I’d rather have had the girl killed than subject her to more of Sonya’s treatments, but we all had our demons to face. I lived with mine every day, waiting for the chance to strike at them. Would Naomi survive this demon?
Sonya observed the screaming banshee of a recruit for a few more seconds before she left, her footsteps receding away beyond the room and down the hall.
We didn’t exactly know what she did to her patients. Her office wasn’t soundproof, so you could hear the screams halfway across the complex. I had never been subjected to her treatments, given the basis of my presence there, but even I couldn’t argue that she got the results she intended to get. I didn’t think she would get what she wanted from this one though. Even completely defeated and restrained, she still fought, continued to try, like a wild horse that wouldn’t be broken.
But what had Sonya said? She wasn’t trying to break the girl, just fix her? What did that entail really? Did it mean that the girl was already broken? And if she was, didn’t that make her more dangerous?
Non-conformers and individualists would destroy the fabric of Section Five. I should have wanted that, but it wasn’t time yet. It wasn’t safe yet. Not until I found out what they did with David, not until Jet was himself again.
It didn’t make any sense to keep her though. If any other initiate was acting this way during intake after a full week, they’d have been terminated per Ryan’s orders. But not this one. Why? What was so special about this girl?
Sonya had made her position clear though. The girl’s future was already decided. I knew what would happen at this point. I would recommend termination to Ryan. Ryan would listen, and order it, but then Sonya would come in, bat her eyelashes at her big bother, and then she would get a brand-new guinea pig.
Bitterness rotted in my stomach.
I could have snapped both their necks with how closely I worked with them both at any time. How many times had I come close? Slowly, as I watched the girl, I rubbed the back of my neck. Like every agent at Section Five, I had a communications tracker in my spine. Supposedly for my safety in case of capture and so they couldn’t lose contact on missions. I had no doubt it probably did more, especially knowing what happened if Ryan Patterson died. No one in Section Five really had a choice, no matter what they told the recruits. It was all a manipulation.
Of course, I would do as I was told, because that was what all good soldiers did. That was all I was anymore. A soldier.
I didn’t know what they had planned for Naomi, and I was sure I didn’t want to. The one thing I could be certain, though, was Sonya had met her match, even if she didn’t think she had. She was playing with a wildfire that she couldn’t control. That no one could control. Naomi Lawless was a goddamned blaze waiting to happen–and if I were honest with myself–I could not wait for her to burn them all.
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