Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chapter 4 Stray

"You're leaving today?"

It's only the day after my arrival, and this news hits me hard. Of course he has to maintain his normal life. He can't stop just for me, but still it shakes me. Alone in his bare apartment with nothing on its walls, and only the sound of the people down below loudly talking and laughing.

"Yeah. I hate to do that to you, but I have to. We train every day. Missing a day won't be good for either of us."

I'm not sure what he means by any of that, but he's got that mature look on his face again. My brain works itself into a flurry. Alone all day.

"So, what should I do exactly? While you're not here?"

"C'mere," he says as he stands up and opens the door. The chilly morning air hits my face as I follow him outside nervously. "You can hang out here. You're under our protection. No one'll mess with you. And if someone comes along that makes you uncomfortable, just go back into the room. No one'll bother you there."

I'm about to ask him what he means by "protection" when a fight breaks out below us. Near by stands a frightened girl watching with eyes so big I can see the whites of them from our spot on the third floor balcony. She glances around at the crowd forming, a hand on her mouth in worry.

"What's that? What's going on there?"

"They're fighting over the girl. A stray they found."

"A what?"

"A stray." The corners of his lips pull back into a grimace.

I don't dare ask. My eyes widen as I look down below watching the fight. I glance over at Brandon and see a remarkable change in him. His eyes are dark, his brows pulled down, his jaw set, and the corners of his lips pulled back. Seeing him angry is just as frightful as seeing the two people fighting over the poor girl.

One man manages to knock the other to the ground with a hard hook. It's enough to win the rights to the "stray" apparently. He roughly grabs her and half drags her off to one of the first floor rooms.

"What's going to happen to her?" I glance up at Brandon. His eyebrow are drawn together murderously. "Brandon?"

"Now they're going to have their fun." He glances at me, his friendly face still twisted angrily. "Don't ask. You can imagine what I mean."

Suddenly I feel sick. "He allows that?"

"Mr. Smith doesn't like to get involved in the personal lives of his soldiers unless it interferes with their duties. Plus it helps hone skills they can use against enemies.”

I can almost feel our simple breakfast of canned meat and veggies in my throat, and so I fight it back down as my stomach twists in protest. It's a deeper pain though, not just a normal sickness. It's the shock of how different my life is already-- one day away from home and an hour's drive in. Here everyone is an enemy or a possible enemy. It's how silence can be malicious. I look down below at the people who are now just chatting as if nothing had happened.

If things had been different, Brandon and I could have been enemies. "Have you..."

"I was there once when a couple of guys had found a victim. She was praying to god to save her." He leans on the railing, his blue eyes finally lifting to me. "I wouldn't let them touch her. Almost got the shit beat out of me. Then Jimmy stepped in. A mess all around."

"Who's Jimmy? And what happened to the girl?"

Brandon pauses for a moment, his eyes darting to mine. He takes a breath through parted lips before he says, "Jimmy's my older brother. He took the girl."

His eyes turn back to look down below us. Something about the way he says it makes it clear that his brother is not my brother. He looks moodily down below, and I can almost imagine he's fighting back memories or some inner demons of his own. I don't ask further about the girl or his brother.

Behind us a door opens and shuts. I glance over my shoulder instinctively at the noise and see a cute boy with mussy hair coming out of his apartment. He stops when he notices me and Brandon standing there, a sweet smile breaking out on his face. "Hey Brandon."

"Hey Mitchell." Brandon doesn't even look at the boy called Mitchell. "Paula, I'm going to go. You can hang out with Mitchell for a bit."

Brandon hardly looks at us, but I can see the corners of his mouth turned down and his eyebrows low on his forehead. He turns and heads for the stairs quickly, taking the stairs in large but light steps.

Next Chapter -->


  1. I'm afraid for Paula. I'd probably run back to the room and barricade myself in there if I were her. The world outside is extremely dangerous.

    I'm very curious about what Brandon was thinking about while he watched the fight.

    Mitchell looks like he could be friendly, but I don't know... (Yes, it's my 'Don't trust anyone in this story' instinct kicking in again. :p)

  2. A brother. Casually thrown out. A brother who took a girl like that.

    And a father who sees no problem in brutalizing women for the amusement/training of the boys he considers his soldiers. Would he throw his daughter out there? Apparently so.

    Eventually that kind of state collapses. The 'soldiers' are usually human though.

    And this is supposed to be a better place than the one her father is fighting against?

    Wonderful shots. The way you show the fight from a high point extenuates the horror.

  3. She SHOULD do that! I'd do that too. Who needs the outside?

    You bring up a good question, Nicole. Remember that image.

    And lol! Good! Trust no one.

    Ah, S.B.! Yes, you get it, and you bring up interesting points. Oh, yes, that definitely makes a lot of sense now.

    As for the brother mention, maybe that was writer's fail on my part. "Brandon pauses for a moment, his eyes darting to mine. He takes a breath through parted lips..."

    And yeah, is this place better? How bad is the other place? LOL, all stuff we're going to be exploring.

    Thank you.

  4. Yes, yes, Brandon definitely needs to be training! And so does Paula! Oh man! What a horrible place. I'd definitely be back in that room, looking for weapons and making some traps! But then again, maybe I'd just be paralyzed with fear.

    I can't wait to hear more about Mitchell! It's hard to believe someone in this place can have a "sweet smile"--that makes him even more intriguing. :) I'm loving this story so much!

  5. Oh, isn't that a horrible term for a person? A "stray"! So dehumanising, which I'm thinking was the intent. That poor girl.

    I think I'd be confining myself to the room constantly, if I was Paula. What a frightening place to have to live.

    I hope Mitchell is a decent guy. I don't trust anyone in this story until I'm given an explicit reason to do so!

  6. I'm asking myself why Mr. Smith went to get Paula in the first place. Even under his "protection" Paula isn't safe from anyone and even the most friendly face can be deadly.

    The memory that Brandon pulled from the fight over the stray has me wondering about his motives as well. It seems that his honor went up a notch in my book but there is still part of me that mistrusts him. What if it comes to Paula or him? Would he throw her under the bus? I think he might.

  7. lol, Rachel. Yeah, she does need some training too. I suppose that what her time with Brandon will technically be.

    Oh, yes, definitely more Mitchell. :)

    Carla, you're right. It is dehumanizing. And that probably isn't the intent, but the outcome of the way they live and look at people.

    "I don't trust anyone in this story until I'm given an explicit reason to do so!" LOL! As you shouldn't. As Paula shouldn't.

    Gayle, that is a VERY good question. And I am not spoiling anything by saying that he didn't go to pick her up. Read over that first chapter again. He's angry and rather confused at the beginning, and then Paula is tossed at him. "Your politician made a mistake," the guy in the suit facing Mr. Smith says, "The DNA match fits your profile. Procreation with a Wildlander is forbidden. That's one of your spies down."

    You are also spot on. More to be revealed! Next week.

  8. Ah okay now I see...I misunderstood his purpose the first time.

    And I love your music player!

  9. Brandon is really cute. Just had to get that out of the way first.

    I feel quite scared for Paula after witnessing that fight. It's really like they treat the 'strays' as less than animals really - to fight over and have their fun with, like the strays aren't an actual person with feelings and a mind and the capacity for hurt and scarring, emotionally and physically.

    It made me to shiver to think what would have happened to Paula if she wasn't protected.

  10. It's okay, Gayl, I have to make sure everything is clear. There's a lot Paula wouldn't know, but she'd witness stuff which I hope will give you all clues. So long as I'm doing my job right.

    And thanks! I listen to it when I need to write. Usually. Each song is for someone or some story.

    Carnaxa, lol, FINALLY! Someone noticed. While I was taking shots of him being not happy, I was thinking the same thing. He's not the one we've dubbed, "Mr. Brown Suit" but he's a cutie in his own right. Maybe as we get to know him. Everyone is still highly suspicious, lol.

    I don't even want to think of how they treat their animals. (Really, I don't. No pets EP for me if they re-make it!)

  11. Hi Lunar,

    This is such an interesting chapter! It totally links with the attitude the experiments were showing towards 'mere humans' in Edith and Michael's story and Killer.

    I know the Southlands are working with the Neutrals... So the stray girl was human but not a Neutral?

    I liked Brandon from the start and even more now... Not sure about Jimmy, but maybe his brother stepped in at that time to protect Brandon...

    I found "you are under OUR protection" very intriguing... it could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Does 'our' include Jimmy?

    Oh-oh, Mr Smith seems to have lots of children... I wonder whether Brandon and Jimmy are full brothers of half brothers? (Purely for my interest, I know it doesn't matter in the Southlands...)

    I'm thinking aloud here... Every time an experiment 'has fun' with a stray they may be procreating half-experiments. I'm curious to see whether half-experiments are generally treated better than humans... Maybe it depends on whether they have latent powers or not. This world seems mostly dictated by the law of the strongest.

    Oops, that reminds me of 'Killer'! So, Mr Smith is his biological father? Killer said his father raped his mother. May I assume Killers' mother was a stray and therefore... Killer is a half-experiment with powers?

    It's nice to think there is someone Brandon trusts on the third floor. He is quite casual about Mitchell, isn't he? He hardly looks at the boy and then says to Paula: "You can hang out with Mitchell for a bit..."

    And... I think Paula is starting to adapt to her situation if she is 'with it' enough to notice that Mitchell is 'cute'... :)

    What a fine read! Thank you, Lunar.

  12. Oh Moondaisy, you are so awesome. Your comment means I am right on track!

    Ok, let's see, there's a lot I can address here and not give anything away.

    The stray girl may or may not have been a Neutral, to be honest. You saw how they booted Paula out. Handed her right over to Mr. Smith like it was nothing. In a way, that was unusual, but someone had a message to send.

    You're right about the "our protection." lol, I'm leaving that one. I think it'll be clear whose protection later on.

    Mr. Smith and children- yes, he probably does. I don't imagine the Wildlands have any sort of birth control other than not doing it. And well, there's not much else to do but train and that.

    BUT I will say that since Paula and Brandon are half siblings through Mr. Smith, and you acknowledge the possibility that Brandon and Jimmy are half brothers, then there is a possibility that Jimmy is not actually a blood relation of Paula's. In other words, Brandon and Jimmy are probably linked through their mother, not their father. I hope that makes sense. We'll definitely be going over this again!

    And OMG- yes!! Every time they have fun with a human stray there is a possibility of creating a half experiment. Remember you called that one.

    As for Killer, you may assume away. We already have to assume he was being honest about that. So, that's a good point. He may possibly be a half experiment with powers. Clever deduction Moondaisy!

    Well, Paula and adapting. I've learned a bit about her not from writing her, but from writing about how other people see her. And I think she's coping.

    Thank you, Moondaisy! You comments are always a pleasure to read and respond to. It's how I know I've done things right.

  13. I am with Paula, I would be puking my spam too from observing that scene below. What I found fascinating, and ultimately reassuring, is Brandon's reaction to the scene. Disgust.
    Perhaps, he is not as bad as I fear.
    There is a lot churning there under Brandon's surface, not a man to be messed with, I think.
    But, like others, I am dubious about his true nature, can't explain why, just my spider sense.
    And have we seen that Brandon has a back tat before? Or am I thinking of someone else?
    And another brother. And a scum at that.
    And who is this tousled haired young man?
    I love all the questions you raise, great stuff~

  14. AH Drew! Yay for your attention to detail.

    You raise some great points! I'm glad I can make you possibly see more than suspicion when it comes to Brandon.

    Especially the tattoo. No, it wasn't Brandon's tattoo we saw earlier. :D

    Thank you for raising all these questions.

  15. Well.. because I trust Brandon and Brandon seemed to trust Mitchell, I think Mitchell's save too. (*gulps*) What a terrifying world it is to be in, and what's worse is that you barely knew anything about it or what to look out for. I would have locked myself in the room when Brandon left, actually, especially after knowing the female stray's (stray? Like, they aren't even viewed as humans?) fate. :S

    And I seriously wonder where the hell Mr. Smith is. It seems to him that his children are not really a concern of his. :(

    Poor Paula. *sigh*

  16. OMG, my english is horrible. I meant "I think Mitchell's safe too." *is embarrassed*

  17. I'm glad someone trusts Brandon. Everyone else is so suspicious, I really don't know why. (I lie, of course, I completely know why, lol.)

    As for Mr. Smith, that is a very good question. Paula did agree to stay with Brandon for a few days though, just to be fair, but still.

    And your English is amazing. You're able to tell a wonderful story very well using a language that isn't even your first. I'm always amazed by that!

  18. OMG I love this! I am so glad I decided to read this instead of doing my homework lol but I have to get to work! I am definitely going to finish this before the end if the weekend but I had to let you know I was here!

    I like Brandon a lot. I get this feeling of "protector" from him. Not just with Paula, but like a future leader. If anyone is going to help her through this with understanding and guidance, I think it's him! Mitchell is cute! Hope he's a nice guy too! Paula looks like she could use a friend!

  19. Thank you, Qui!

    Also =O Seriously. Remember you said that about Brandon! It's true, he does handle Paula and her situation with some understanding and compassion. Paula could just use a friend right here.