Zebra, Mule, and I stood abreast, as always, and studied the newcomer. Sea Horse reared up from his pale green tentacle of a tail. His upper half resembled the cavalry horses behind us, complete... [+]
When she finally reached the Citadel, Eira risked a glance to her right to find Scaros officers beating a human for supposed disobedience. She quickly snapped her eyes back ahead and stepped through into the Citadel. Once inside, Eira headed straight to the Head Official’s office.
Inside the office, Eira found the Head Official glaring murderously at a human, whose arms were restrained by a guard. The Head Official looked up when Eira walked in.
“Ah, Eira,” he said in mock earnestness. “So glad to see you.” When the Official caught Eira’s gaze lingering on the human, he remarked, “Oh yes, we found this criminal this morning. His record is rather lengthy. Disobedience, theft, countless rebellious acts,” the Head Official counted the crimes off on his tentacles. The human’s glare only intensified. Glancing at the human’s weak frame, Eira knew that half of those crimes had to have been falsified.
The Head Official then fixed Eira with a sugary smile. “And you’re here for your promotion, aren’t you?” He asked, his eyes boring into hers.
Eira cleared her throat and tried to talk, but under the Official’s piercing gaze no sound came. She finally managed a nod, and the Head Official reached behind his desk and brought out a pin, reserved only for High Officers. Eira’s eyes widened at the sight of it. Carefully, she pinned the icon to her jacket.
Then, without warning, the human kicked the guard off him and dashed for the door. But the Head Official produced a remote controller from his jacket, pressed a button, and watched amusedly as shocks of electrocution swam through the human’s body from a metal anklet, leaving him unconscious on the floor. Eira stared at the human’s body, unsure of what to feel.
Again the Head Official caught Eira staring at the human. “Well, Eira, why don’t you decide the suitable punishment for such acts? Call it your first task as High Officer.” Eira knew what the Head Official was expecting, but his eyes dared her to say otherwise. Eira felt the heaviness of the pin on her jacket, and, gulping quietly, ignored the small voice in her head trying to tell her to be better.
“Execute him,” Eira said, her voice louder than before. But as the guards dragged the human away, Eira knew her strength wasn’t from a confidence in her actions.
At the end of the day, Eira flopped onto her bed, exhausted. The image of the human kept running through her mind, and the guilt intensified now that she was out of the Head Official’s sight. Sullenly she looked out the window, watching the Scaros vendors in the street.
Suddenly in the shadows, Eira caught sight of a human girl sidling up to one of the carts. Eira watched as the human slid her hand into the cart and retrieved some fruit. But just as the girl was about to leave, a vendor caught sight of her.
“Hey!” he shouted, grabbing her arm. Eira’s heart wrenched as she recognized the same terrified yet rebellious eyes in the human she had just condemned earlier that day. With the image still engraved in her mind, Eira rushed out of her house to the scene, hastily putting on her military jacket in the process.
When the vendor caught sight of Eira his demeanor changed to one of deference. “Ma’am-” he began, bowing his head.
“Save it,” Eira snapped, surprised again at the strength of her voice. She waved her tentacle towards the girl. “What happened?”
The vendor jerked the girl’s arm, making her yelp. “This peasant was trying to steal my fruit. Just wait ‘til I bring her to an Officer-”
“I’ll take it from here,” Eira said, no longer sure what she was trying to do. Without another word, she grabbed the girl’s arm and began dragging her to what seemed like the Citadel. As soon as they were out of sight, however, Eira released the girl in an alley. But as Eira began backing away, the girl’s eyes rolled behind her head and she began to fall. Alarmed, Eira caught her and, without thinking, began carrying the girl through back alleys to her own house.
By the time the girl awoke, Eira had made a bowl of soup. She waited patiently as the girl slurped it up in large gulps, whilst sneaking glances at Eira. When she had finished both sat in silence. Eira noticed the girl kept looking at her pin.
“You’re a High Officer?” asked the girl, her voice weak. Eira nodded, realizing how suspicious the situation seemed. Eira felt herself sink deeper into uncertainty as she wondered if it had been the right choice to help this girl.
“What’s your name?” Eira asked finally. The girl stared. Eira thought the girl wouldn’t respond when she heard her frail voice again. “Ava,” she said.
“Ava,” Eira said, rolling the name over her tongue. She smiled. “It’s a nice name.” Outside Scaros Officers were passing by on their routine patrol. At the sound of them, Ava crouched into a ball. Eira tried to soothe her fears.
“Hey,” Eira said. “It’s okay. They’re not going to come inside because I don’t want them to.” Eira wasn’t sure where her words were coming from, but they didn’t seem to lessen the girl’s alarm. In fact, Ava was quivering with fear.
“Will said the same thing,” she muttered.
At this Ava began to cry. Eventually, Eira was able to coax out that Will was Ava’s brother, and that he had been caught by Scaros Officers earlier in the day.
“He was only walking by the front of the Citadel,” she mumbled. Ava looked up, and her tear-stained face broke Eira’s heart. “He wasn’t doing anything. And now, they’re gonna-” She wasn’t able to finish before another wave of tears came.
With a start, Eira realized that Will was the human she had condemned to execution. All of a sudden the little voice in Eira’s head was back, berating her for condemning an innocent person to death, separating him from his family. Except the voice didn’t sound so small or ridiculous anymore.
“Don’t worry.” The words came out of Eira’s mouth before she even thought them. “I’ll save your brother. I promise.”
Ava looked up from her crying. “How do I know you’re not lying?” she said.
Eira chose her words carefully. “I guess you don’t know,” she said. “But I haven’t broken a promise yet.”
Ava wiped away her tears and smiled. Both shook on the deal before Ava got up to leave.
At this Eira stood as well. “Do you want to stay? I have an extra room.” As soon as she said it, Eira kicked herself. What was she thinking? She couldn’t let a human stay in her home.
But Ava shook her head. “Thanks for everything.” And with another smile, Ava rushed off through the back door into the night, her footsteps barely heard over the Scaros officer’s conversation outside Eira’s front window. However, as Eira readied herself for bed, she kept wondering what exactly she was thinking in helping out a little human girl.
In the next few days, Eira would ultimately destroy Will’s file after much indecision. However, the Head Official would also discover that Eira had destroyed legal documents, and would relieve her from duty. Rumors would circulate that Eira had aided a human, and she would be virtually shunned from the Scaros community.
But the day after she had destroyed Will’s file, Eira caught sight of Will and Ava in the shadows of an alley. And when they saw her, both smiled and mouthed a silent “Thank you” to her. And though this did nothing to mollify Eira’s dread about her job, and it would do nothing to bring back Eira’s reputation, the gesture still filled Eira with joy. After that day, Eira started looking at the humans more often, seeing them with new eyes. That day she vowed to listen to herself more often because maybe the little voice inside her was right after all.