Nothing’s fair in love and war
5 years before...
“I’m going away, Helle,” he said, smoothing a caressing hand over my cheek.
“For how long?” I asked, hating the wobble in my voice.
Jason sighed and leaned down, pressing his forehead against mine. “I don’t know,” he said, his words coming out in little breaths and his breaths coming out like mist in the cold winter’s evening. “Love me?”
“Always,” I promised, choking on the word.
Gentle fingers slid under my jaw, tilting my teary face upwards. “You’re beautiful when you cry. But it doesn’t suit you. I think you’re at your brightest when you laugh.” The tears come faster now, transitioning from droplets to a rainstorm.
“But if you must cry,” Jason continued, his voice a soothing whisper. “Remember that after every storm, comes a rainbow.”
Warm, inviting lips pressed softly against mine, offering a refuge from the chaos of the world. I kissed him back harder and wrapped my arms around him tightly, fiercely. Passion and desperation melded together as I melted into him, ignoring the woes of the world.
Until he broke contact. Until he swiped away my tears with the pads of his fingers one last time. Until his last ‘I Love You’. Until his storm grey eyes met mine and I knew. He wasn’t coming back.
“Find someone, Helle. Don’t wait for me,” he called softly over his shoulder as he disappeared into the foggy night. They were his last words to me.
2 years before...
“NO!” I barked, glaring hard at General Steele. “I refuse!”
General Steele’s lips twisted into a grim grin. This simple twitch of the mouth, along with the amused look in his eyes sparked a fire in me that I thought had vanished long ago.
“I will NEVER be your pawn. I will NEVER agree to be your champion. And I will NEVER give a gear to the future of the Wicked Winds. As far as I’m concerned, your “army” can burn to cinders and the Floating Isles can be damned!”
General Steele remained silent, observing me quietly with that amused look still prevalent in his eyes.
Anger coursed through my veins causing my blood to boil. “Stop looking at me like that! Like you actually know more than me! You’re a monster! A cyborg!” The last tiny shred of empathy that remained with me was disgusted by my use of the word but I tuned the voice out. I was immune to it now. I no longer cared. About anything.
“You’re right,” General Steele agreed, inclining his head. “I am a cyborg. And I’m not ashamed of that.” The General’s calculating eyes found mine. They were surprisingly... human. The General shook his head gently and continued. “But you? You’re a pure. And yet I, despite being half robot, have more humanity within me than you. You’re a shell, Helle. And if you don’t do something, you’ll be nothing.”
I glared at him, envying his lazer vision.
General Steele shook his head again, his lips now pressed into a firm line. “Jason wouldn’t recognize you. You’re a monster.”
Mention of Jason poured fuel onto the fire raging within me and I thought I would explode in my rage. All I saw was red.
1 year before...
“Guilty of murder, assault, theft and illegal trading.” The words rang out in the courtroom. “The penalty for such offences is death.”
The judge’s eyes found mine. “Do you deny these charges?” he asked solemnly.
“I am guilty as charged of all charges except murder,” I replied, unable to bring myself to care.
“So you admit to assault, theft and illegal trading,” the judge repeated slowly.
I rolled my eyes. Does he think I’m thick or something? “Yes,” I answered, drawing out the word to annoy him.
“Yet you deny that you murdered innocent people.”
“I don’t know why I should claim guilty for a crime that I have never committed,” I told the judge evenly, staring him down.
The judge returned my stare and at length said, “We have no evidence to support the theory of murder, but as you have admitted to assault, theft and illegal trading, the penalty is twenty years behind bars. Are the jury agreed?”
“What if there was an alternative option?” a commanding voice called out, attracting the attention of the whole courtroom.
“What exactly are you suggesting General Steele?” the judge asked carefully.
General Steele’s lips formed a grim smile, “We could use her service’s. If she would agree to join the Wicked Winds, perhaps we could revoke her prison sentence if we put measures in place?”
“What measures?” Another jury member demanded skeptically.
“She would be assigned a handler who would never let her out of their sight. Someone who the judge and jury trusts. Someone who would ensure that disciplinary action was taken wherever needed.”
“Who do you suggest?” the jury member asked.
“Me,” General Steele replied, his eyes trained on me. I glared at him in response but there was nothing I could do. He had sealed my fate.
1 month before...
“General! GENERAL!” I sobbed, my shoulders shaking as I crouched down beside the greatest leader that the Wicked Winds had ever known. My own personal hero.
“I’ll do it,” I promised hoarsely, my body sore and my emotions raw. “I’ll be your champion. A thousand times over.”
My name is Helle; Rebel of the Floating Isles and Warrior of the Wicked Winds. Fear me or worship me. Challenge me or cower before me. Hate me or love me. The choice is yours.
24 hours later...
“You!” Anger, confusion, shock and hurt intermingle as I look into the face of my opponent.
“Helle,” his face is a picture of guilt.
“You died.”
“No. I lived.”
“You’re a traitor,” I hiss, glaring at him.
“No. I’m a hero.”
“You’re a monster!” My voice shakes at the words and I desperately grapple to find the anger that was consuming me earlier. Anger is far preferable to hurt. Anger is my friend, anger can be used as a weapon. Hurt is below me, hurt makes me vulnerable.
“I’m as much of a monster as you are.” His words land like a blow and I feel the accusation hit me in the gut. It cuts deeper than any gun or lazer.
“I waited for you,” I whisper, the betrayal I feel giving depth to my statement.
His face twists remorsefully, “I told you not to.”
“And I told you ‘Always’,” I retort, fire in my eyes. “We all tell lies.”
“I have to kill you now,” his words are soft but determination hardens his once beautiful eyes. Eyes I used to stare into for hours. Eyes that used to sparkle when I laughed. Eyes that used to hold so much love in them. Eyes that are now empty.
“Then do it,” I say, throwing down my weapon and kicking it towards him. “Shoot me.”
“Pick up your weapon, Helle,” he chides, his eyes not leaving mine.
“Aim and fire, Jason,” I reply evenly.
I hear a click, see his muscles tense, feel the heat on my skin. Pain explodes everywhere. He’s a good shot. I fall like a stone but there’s no shame in falling. I am not defeated and neither are my people. I am simply indisposed. We have a plan.
It’s my last thought.
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