An icy wind blows through the barred window of my cell. I get up from the hard wooden bench with a wince and limp over to the small opening. The bleak white sky casts no shadow on the walls or ground outside. Rather, every line of the military post is so clear that my eyes feel lacerated by the sharp angles.
I touch my broken, bleeding face; shattered nose, lower lip nearly torn in half, one eye swollen shut, dried blood trailing from my left ear. They also broke a few ribs, one of which has punctured a lung. My breath is shallow and I can hear the swish of blood slowly filling my lungs. I run a hand over my belly, fighting tears. Despite everything I have seen in life, all that I have endured and taken part in, I am terrified—of failure, of death, of seeing my father again.
My legs quiver with weakness but I cling to the barred window and try to see more of the camp. I know that once the Reds found the identification tag in the lining of my pants they informed my father, General Tykus, of my presence. At the thought of my pants I look down and nearly faint at the sight of my naked legs covered in huge purplish-black bruises from heel to hip. How did I never before understand what monsters we humans can be? Unable to stand any longer, I collapse onto the bench with labored breathing. My naked skin pimples with the cold.
Father won’t come, the rational part of my mind whispers. He won’t come because he knows you betrayed everything he holds dear. I could not deny the truth of that either. As a top general in the Terados Army, Father was as patriotic as they come; or so he believed. So they all believed, all those red armored men and women who bathed the ground of this planet with blood.
Once upon a time, I had served as loyally as my father. Nothing gave me more pleasure than to suit up in my scarlet plate and march into battle, knowing that my small effort helped make Terados safe and strong. Then, during a particularly fevered campaign, I watched as a fellow soldier, a good friend of mine, beheaded a screaming Draykell toddler; a tiny boy with the bluest eyes I had ever seen. I hear that little boy’s cries in my dreams every night. The smell of his blood makes food almost impossible to eat. After that, the sight of my red armor reminded me of the whole episode in full, sickening detail. I left the military and my father. Neither ever forgave me. My defection only took on more horrible proportions when I hooked up with the other side: traitors, the rebels, Draykells, the natives.
Creaking hinges bring my head up quickly. Without thinking, I cross my arms to hide my breasts. The ridiculousness of the gesture dawns on me and I drop my arms. A guard in full armor, his face obscured by the faceplate of his red helmet, tells me curtly to follow him. I stand with a soft gasp and lurch into the cold. A blast of wind hits my face and finds its way down my throat. I cough at the unexpected frosty coating on my lungs. The cough becomes violent and I cover my mouth with a hand. I grit my teeth at the blood covering my hand.
The guard pushes me, calling me a traitorous slut. I stumble on my fatigued legs. Rather than catch myself, I wrap my arms around my midsection and fall on my side, the snow freezing my unprotected limbs. He jerks me to my feet and gives me a slap—not hard, but as a warning not to fall again. I walk before him, wincing in pain and with shallow breaths.
"I would like to speak to General Tykus," I say in the haughtiest voice I can muster through my wheezing.
The soldier shouts, "Move!" and pushes me again.
I look to my left and see an armed soldier. The soldier smiles at me and taps the barrel of the gun on his head then points it at me. "I want to speak to General Tykus," I demand again, louder.
"Your daddy wants us to kill you, because he’s ashamed to have a traitor for a daughter. Now turn and face your new daddy!" The gunman shouts with a laugh. He puckers his lips in a mock kiss and grins at me.
"Daughter!" he calls and holds out his arms, "come to your father!"
I stand as straight as my broken frame will allow. I do not want them to see my fear.
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