Time has decided that it will move even slower for me. The clocks around the Sector seem to lag at triple the pace than normal, only making my thinking labored as I have tried to reason what I saw the day before. Though, I can't make any logical answer, other than the simple truth that's staring me in the face; COBALT and Syria kissed in front of my eyes, blatantly defying the Law of Gelus. And for all I know, that was not the first time they've done something like that. Hell, they've probably been doing something along the lines of what they did yesterday for months!
I've avoided COBALT since. I'm not ready for him to look into my head and see that I spied on them. I need to figure it all out myself before I even attempt to talk to him. Then there's the option that he may get angry, or defensive. For all I know, he may be able to do something to my memories with his Ability of Mind. I need to build up a mental defense for that too, just in case.
While undergoing my thoughts, I look up at the ceiling. It's hard to make out at this hour, considering that it's now night. The rays from the moon barely work their way into the small windows at the top of the walls, just lightly giving a glow to the edges where the walls and ceiling meet. It's an interesting sight, but I'm too distracted at the moment to really appreciate the scene.
You like to look at the light too?
My eyes widen in alarm, and I shoot up to a sitting position on my bunk. COBALT's voice slides through my head naturally, just as Maggie's and Sammy's have in previous times. I gulp, bracing myself for the conversation.
Y-Yeah. . . . I guess, it's just something you never notice upstairs. . . .
I try my best not to sound on edge, but it seems COBALT picks up on my wariness.
Dude, what's up with you? You acted weird all day today.
I don't answer quickly, allowing COBALT to speak more.
Is there something bothering you?
I hold my breath for a moment, struggling to find a way to tell him the truth in the best way possible for both of us.
Isugoro. Tell me what's wrong.
I can hear the seriousness in COBALT's tone, and in my confusion, my defense falls apart. In total shock, I see the memory play again before my eyes, each detail crisp. My gut sinks as I come to grips with the fact that COBALT must have seen it as well.
Suddenly, I sense someone near me, and as I turn, a hand grips my wrist, pulling me down from my bunk. I know instantly that it's COBALT, and I brace myself for his anger, his fist, his-
"I knew you were there," COBALT says plainly.
Instantly, all the tension in my body shatters, and my jaw drops to the floor. My brow furrows in confusion. He knew this whole time?!
COBALT chuckles, able to sense my disbelief. "I will give you credit though, I wasn't aware of your presence until you let your mind fall apart," he continues, his tone normal.
I blink, trying to figure out what he means. Again, I hear him chuckle. "The kiss, Bro. The kiss," he states.
"Oh. . . ." I trail.
At this point, I sense the atmosphere become more serious, and COBALT heaves a sigh, seeming to be troubled. I feel his hand rest on my shoulder, and pushes slightly down, motioning for me to lower. I follow suit, and before long, we're sitting on the floor of my personal cell. As my eyes become adjusted, I can make out COBALT better, now seeing that he's sitting only a few inches from me. My guess is the reason is so that we don't have to speak to loud, thus waking someone up.
"Isugoro," COBALT starts, "Unfortunately, now you have to know a lot more than I wanted you to."
"You don't trust me," I comment.
COBALT looks up at me, his eyes beginning to shine a familiar silver tint. "It's not that I don't trust you. The issue is that since you weren't supposed to be here for too long, I wouldn't be able to get a lot of Intel on you, so I couldn't predict your usefulness," he explains, “And while yes, I have read you, I only saw bits and pieces of what will happen.”
I raise an eyebrow as I pick up a certain phrase, "My usefulness?"
He looks a bit perplexed, then relaxes as he looks me right in the eye. "If you would be useful in spreading the truth," COBALT adds.
"What truth?" I ask, "COBALT-"
"Go ahead and stop calling me that," COBALT interrupts.
My eyes widen as I reply, "What do you mean?"
"You know my name," COBALT says as he looks me straight in the eye, "My name is Nathan Bagans. I'm from Alexandria, Virginia, and was twenty-three years old when I tried to commit suicide by drowning myself in the Pontiac River."
The sudden information has me speechless. COBALT just sits in silence, just staring at me, his eyes shining as it reflects off the light. The way he's acting now is completely opposite of what his normal demeanor is. I feel like my voice in stuck in my throat, totally blindsided by COBALT’s admittance. To think, the smiling, happy guy that I've come to know . . . tried to commit suicide?
My curiosity gets the better of my mind. "Why did you do that?" I ask, my voice faltering some.
His eyes divert to look down at the ground, seeming to be concentrating. Then, he sighs again, but unlike before, he sounds almost saddened. "To be perfectly honest, I just didn't feel like it was worth it to be alive," CO- no, Nathan, admits, "My life had been planned out for me, and nothing I did was for myself."
"But is that really deserving of death?" I comment.
"It is when you're nothing more than a puppet. That's all I was, even to my Mom," Nathan snaps, his brow furrowing, "She never saw me as her son. I was just an object she could use to climb the ranks of power."
"What ranks of power? You lived in the United States-" I start.
“The United States wasn’t a perfect society, don’t let anyone make you believe that,” Nathan interrupts, meeting my gaze with a sharp light in his eyes, “Sure, I’m proud to say I’m an American, but I’d never say that my country was as magnificent as your school books have. Hell, the United States was a place that beautiful on the outside, but damn, did it have some major problems, just like any other country. . . . We were not the greatest country on Earth by the time I came around.”
I’m totally flabbergasted as his words hit me. Years of information about the United States run through my mind, totally juxtaposing his words. Though, it seems numbness takes over the shock as another thought passes through my mind.
Nothing is perfect, of course the United States wouldn’t be either. . . . I’d be ignorant if I believed that they did nothing wrong over the country’s long existence.
Nathan seems to pick up on my inner confusion, a shadow falling over his eyes as he continues on with his story. "My mother was a representative of Virginia in Congress. That's why we lived so close to DC," Nathan interrupts, "She had hurt her reputation among the citizens, so she knew she had no chance to run for the Presidency."
"Ok?" I reply.
"So she decided to make me the next president," he continues, "There wasn't a moment of childhood that I can remember that my mom did something for me that wasn't just a cover for helping herself. I wasn't allowed to have much of a social life because that "distracted me from my destiny". I wasn't allowed to date 'cause she said that I'd become a male whore if I tried. Hell, my best friend was my fifty-four year old tutor."
"What about school?" I ask.
"Top of the class, but I never was a part of a sports team or academic club, no arts or anything. Because of that, I didn't have a niche. No one really knew me. I bet everyone thought I was a stuck-up rich kid," he answers, chuckling, "My mom convinced me that they would just use my intelligence to further themselves. Didn't occur to me 'til later that I had already been used my entire life."
My brow furrows, and I speak cautiously, "What about your Father?"
Nathan looks a bit off guard for a moment. Though, it doesn’t last long, a grin rising on his lips as he replies, "My Pa was cool. I consider him the one that actually raised me. He was a bit strict, but he also knew how to have fun. The reason I'm not a robot is thanks to him."
"So-" I begin.
"But my mom wouldn't let him come see me after I turned fourteen," he says, his face turning angry, "She told me he was a bad influence. She even got a court order that made it impossible for him to come visit."
"Your mom wouldn't let you see your dad?" I reply, shocked.
"Nope, but it doesn't mean I didn't try," he says, "I snuck out a good fifty times before I was caught by my mom. . . ."
My eyes widen as I notice the change in his countenance. The anger has melted into true sorrow, and he hides his eyes from me after a moment.
"Nathan . . . ?" I trail.
He’s silent a bit longer, as if he’s preparing himself. ". . . Did you know that there's a record here at Gelus?" Nathan starts, his voice barely feasible, "By using our DNA and memories, the scientists here have been able to track back to a few of the Jeweloid's families."
"R-Really?" I stutter, surprised, "How is that possible?"
"I'm not sure . . . But they were able to find mine."
I feel a lump form in my throat. Something about the way he's setting up the current conversation tells me this isn't gonna be good. Cautiously, I start, "What did they find out?"
He doesn't answer for a moment, lost in his own mind. Though, he slowly looks up at me, his eyes spelling out his inner self. It's at that moment that I see the real Nathan, as I watch a tear fall down his face. "My Pa shot himself after I disappeared . . ." Nathan croaks, "He killed himself because he thought it was his fault that I tried suicide . . ."
My stomach sinks.
"My idiocy made my Pa die!" Nathan cries, "And that rotten bitch that birthed me did absolutely nothing! She just took the money she had set up for my life insurance, and spent it all on herself! I hate her!"
"Nathan-" I start.
"I hate myself!" he interrupts. My eyes widen as Nathan looks away, his face becoming stone almost. "My Pa was an amazing person. I'm just a puppet that never thought for myself. Yet in the end, I was the one that survived," Nathan continues, "And even now, I'm just a puppet to the military."
"That isn't true," I object, "You're just like any other soldier here-"
"Bullshit," Nathan snaps. Though, it's at that moment that he looks up at me, his eyes strong, "If I was, then I wouldn't have to hide."
"Hide?" I repeat.
He groans, irritated that I'm not keeping up with him, "Syria, Isugoro. Syria."
"Oh," I answer, "So . . . how did that even happen?"
Nathan doesn't respond for a moment, wary of me. Though, with a bit of time, he eventually gives, "She wasn't always training to be a doctor or whatever her cover is. When we first met, she was training to be a Jeweloid partner."
"I remember that she didn't like me that much at first, and that always got to me. You see, I've acted like a funny guy ever since I got out of the ice, which made it easy for people to approach me. I let people think I was a very open person, and finally, people flocked to me. But her . . . for some reason, whenever I came around, she'd do everything in her power to avoid me," he explains, "Then, when it came for us to decide who we wanted as our partners, I picked her."
My jaw drops. They were partners?!
Nathan chuckles as he watches my expression, then his expression changed once again. "She didn't talk to me, and as it went on for weeks, it began to piss me off. Finally, I cracked, and I yelled at her to tell me why she hated me," he says.
"What did she say?" I ask, my curiosity rising.
". . . She just sighed and said, "I don't hate you. I hate the way you hide your true feelings and act like nothing is wrong." . . ." he trails off, his expression becoming calmer as he thinks back on the events, "I honestly didn't know how to respond to that. Out of all the people around me, including the Jeweloids, she was the only person that saw through me. . . . She was the only person that seemed to see that I had set up a protective barrier between myself and other people. . . . I guess it was that moment that sealed things for me."
I look at him confused as I repeat his words, "Sealed what?"
"My feelings for her. . . ." Nathan says, "I didn't tell her though. The Law scared me too much to do anything. But, that didn't stop me from getting close to her. After that argument, I told her basically everything about myself, and after a while, she and I became really good friends."
I just watch him with a blank stare. I can't understand how her calling him out on the truth made him fall head over heels. Honestly, can falling in love be that simple? If so, why are most people on Earth single? The mystery that is called love is always perceived as something strenuous to master, yet Nathan achieved it by just hearing some truth out of a girl he hardly knew. And how can he be ok with that? He didn't even know her that well when he says he fell for her, so how did he know that she would actually end up liking him as not only a friend, but the same as he does about her? It makes no sense.
Nathan seems to catch on to my inner debate, and sighs, looking up at the ceiling. I hear him mumble something, but since he's no longer facing me, I can't quite make it out. My brow furrows a bit as I pull my legs up in front of me so I can lean against them, folding my arms across my legs to keep them stationary. He notices my change in pose, and looks back at me, his face calmer. "I didn't ask to fall for Syria, it just kinda happened over time," Nathan starts, "But you have to understand, she and I are good for each other-"
"So why are you down here then?" I interrupt, my curiosity controlling my mouth. Nathan's eyes widen in surprise, his back straightening as it hits his ear drums. His expression doesn't change for a moment, though when it does, it turns angry.
"I was framed," Nathan admits, "About nine months ago, there was talk about all the Jeweloids going against Gelus. I, being the politician I was groomed to be, tried to go about the rumor in a practical way, talking to people and gaining Intel on where the idea came from. But, while doing that, I also became very involved in the group that was for doing it, and before I knew it, I was the front-runner."
"So what, you hit someone?" I question, trying to think.
Nathan shakes his head, "No, a female Jeweloid turned me in for attempting . . ."
I'm perplexed by Nathan's sudden trailing off, "What? For attempting what?"
He breathes a deep breath, looking down at the ground. "She told them that I tried to take advantage of Syria," he finishes.
"What?" I breath, shocked.
"Of course, I denied it, and Syria told them that it was a lie, but they wouldn't listen. They said that Syria "was in shock, so her testimony wasn't valid," Nathan continues, making quotation motions with his hands, before grunting in frustration, "It was a stupid trial. They had no evidence but that Jeweloid's testimony, but I was still convicted, and sentenced to come down here."
"How long was your sentence made?" I ask.
Nathan scoffs to himself, "Indefinitely."
"Which means?-" I start.
"I'm down here until the bastard running this place feels like I'm needed,” Nathan interrupts, glancing up at me.
I’m totally flabbergasted by the unjust actions he’s describing to me, my true thoughts spilling from my mouth, "That's crazy! You're down here for no reason!-"
"Well, that's not exactly true," Nathan says calmly.
I blink in confusion, "What?"
Nathan turns his head, looking towards the others in their personal cells, all asleep and unaware of our exchange. "Yes, the reason they sent me down here is bullshit, but I think there is a bigger cause behind it," he explains.
"You mean, like a-" I start.
"A cover-up," he finishes, looking straight at me, "I told you before, I was originally looking for the origin of where the idea to fight Gelus came from."
"Yeah, so?" I ask.
"I found a few things out involving the subject, but in my digging, I also uncovered a few secrets about this place, and about the higher-ups," Nathan continues.
"Secrets?" I repeat.
"Yeah, and I think that someone found out, so they came up with that tacky trial to put me down here so I wouldn't be able to find out any more," Nathan explains.
The wheels in my head begin to turn, catching on to the scenario he’s setting up for me, "To keep you quiet, basically."
Nathan nods, "Exactly."
I look away, trying to piece together all the information Nathan put out for myself. So, he found out some stuff about the "higher-ups". Who does he mean by that? Does he mean the regular human soldiers? The Commanding Staff?
I feel another lump beginning to form as I continue to think.
Did he find something out about the Commander himself?
"HEY! What are you inmates doing in there?!"
Nathan and I abruptly turn our heads, met with a flashlight suddenly shinning in our faces. I advert my eyes quickly as they begin to burn from meeting unexpectedly with bright light, Nathan unmoved by it. I hear the other people in our group cell moving, awoken by the sudden shouting. Seconds later, I make out of the familiar boots of a guard enter my personal cell.
"Of course, it's you causing mischief, COBALT!" the guard grunts as he pulls on Nathan's arm, forcing him to his feet. Though, Nathan doesn't fight, just follows suit as he's taken out. Another guard enters as the two exit, pulling me to my feet.
"Inmate, when is curfew?" He shouts in my face, glaring at me demandingly.
"20:30, Sir," I answer in as normal as a tone as I can muster.
"It is 04:14, Inmate!" he answers, "Past curfew by a long shot!"
"I'm sorry-" I start.
"Sorry don't cut it!" he shouts, "You're on dishes all three meals tomorrow!"
"Yes, Sir," I answer, not wanting anymore trouble.
The guard glares me down for one more moment, before turning and quickly exiting my cell. My brow furrows, looking towards where they're escorting Nathan down the corridor.
Looks like I got us in trouble. . . .
My eyes widen as I hear Nathan’s voice, though I quickly look normal as I turn away, so not to draw attention to myself.
How did they even know to come in here is what I’m focused on. . . .
I hear Nathan chuckle.
They just have good timing sometimes. . . . But Isugoro, don't tell anyone what I told you, got it?
Who would I tell?
Who knows, you're gonna be going back up in a few days, so people may try to get something out of you.
I pause for a moment, before letting the thought pass my mind.
Why did you tell me all that? You said at the beginning that you weren’t sure about whether or not you could trust me with your secrets.
Nathan doesn't respond quickly, though his answer takes me back.
Because. . . I want you to be aware of the corruption here. . . . Not only for yourself, but for the girl you’re protecting.
Yeah, you don’t want to end up in here indefinitely like me. I can’t protect Syria from a cell. I can’t protect anyone.
What do you expect me to do?
Suddenly, his laughter wraps around my mind, making me calm, but somehow still a bit unsure of what he may be getting at. He speaks gently, but is straightforward nonetheless with his last statement.
I expect you to be the leader you’re fated to be.