Jordan counted 12 other young men and women, including her and Alex, huddled in the Box with their laundry bags.
“What the hell is this gaggle?!” Shouted the Head Control. “Form up shoulder to shoulder! Empty all bags. Turn pockets inside out. LET’S GO!”
The Controls strolled down the line with weapons in hand, inspecting every single item and shaking down each Soldier. Jordan and Alex stood waiting at the end.
Alex’s shiny brass harmonica peeked out underneath a grey washcloth. Her face grew pale, not knowing where to hide it.
The female Control finished her shakedown with the anxious girl next to Jordan. She glanced Jordan up and down, scanning for contraband and fear. Jordan stared blankly ahead, acting completely unfazed as her belongings were shuffled through and scattered about the Box.
The Control’s eyes caught sight of the brass instrument that was half-concealed below the cloth directly in front of Alex. She reached underneath and removed it from the heap, examining the harmonica in the light.
“Hmm, look at what we have here,” she said maliciously. “What’s your name, Soldier?”
“Alex, mm…ma’m,” she responded nervously.
“Hmm. Noted,” said the female Control. “Hey, Master C!”
The Head Control turned his attention away from the intense conversation with another Control, and saw the harmonica she held above her head.
Jordan felt his heavy strides vibrate the Box floor.
Sweat dripped from Alex’s brows.
“Who said you could have this, Soldier?” the Head demanded. Alex, thinking this was a rhetorical question and too scared to say anything, remained still and stared at him blankly.
Say something, Jordan thought.
“WHO?!” he shouted.
“No one, Master C!” she finally said.
“Oh, really?” he asked.
“I… I thought-” she stuttered.
“You think you’re special, don’t you?” he interrupted.
“No, Master C.” Alex shook her head, closing her eyes in defeat.
“You think you’re unique, Soldier?” he added. “Oh, don’t worry ’bout it. I’ll make SURE you never think that again.”
Alex’s lips trembled. Her eyelids opened wide as Master C stepped aside for a Control to move forward. Without any warning, he grabbed Alex by the shoulder and threw her down on the dirty ground.
God, do something. Jordan screamed in her head.
“Let this be a warning to you Soldiers,” shouted Master C. “Try me. I dare you. I’m here all night. ALL night.”
The Control who threw Alex down tugged her thick blonde hair and yanked her head backward. Her pale skin and wet eyes reflected the bright lights above her. Another Control grabbed her lips and forced them open with filthy metal pliers.
The female Control stepped in front of Alex and unsheathed her knife. Jordan stood in horror as she watched the fear rise in her friend’s eyes. Alex twisted her body and tried to writhe her way out, but the Control held on even tighter.
“STOP!!” Jordan cried, suddenly jabbing her fist into the female’s jaw.
The female staggered back, but recovered instantaneously, still gripping her weapon. Jordan, full of anger and adrenaline, attempted a second jab, but was literally cut short as the Control sliced into her bicep. A loud howl escaped Jordan’s mouth. The blade felt hot, like it burned through her skin. The Control shoved Jordan onto all fours beside Alex.
“Save your energy, Soldier!” the female yelled. “Or you’ll be next.”
Jordan felt an overwhelming amount of defeat as her arms were locked in place behind her, blood oozing from her arm.
Please… don’t do this… she begged silently.
The female stepped over Jordan and readjusted her grip with the weapon. With one palm, she steadied Alex’s forehead and placed the blade against her tongue with the other.
Alex’s moans rang in Jordan’s ears. A moment later, she saw drops of crimson splat onto the floor and heard Alex’s feet scraping the ground.
Tears streamed down Jordan’s cheeks as she hung her head low.
The last thing Jordan remembered from that first day in combat training was two Controls dragging Alex’s limp body down into the darkness of the arena.
To be continued…