“Today at midnight, the Dosid Act was passed. In it was the act requiring Lightfoot businesses to pay the
government ten percent of their profits, in addition to their normal taxes. Also at midnight was an uncontrollable
riot in the slums, incredibly large tax-deductible donations to charities all over the business district, and an
organized pelting of stale bakery goods at local tax offices in Restaurant Row. All of the instigators were
Lightfoot businesspeople and their compatriots. At the time of this printing, tempers are still high with no sign of
cooling. Human police officers are doing what they can to keep the danger down. Lightfoot policemen all over
have openly declared that they would not stop those who protest against the Lightfoot discriminations. Our
sources at various stations say that Lightfeet stationed at hot zones do nothing or actually help the rioters
spread pandemonium.
   “Antony Shaw, a writer of the Dosid Act, has said this in response to the riots: ‘The Dosid Act was not
designed to discriminate against the Lightfoot community. Rather, it was in recognition of their unilateral
success that it was passed. We all know what the economy is like nowadays, and it only makes sense to tax
the people who have money.’”
   -excerpt from the Daily Web, Acerbate’s largest newspaper

   Wodes are not allowed to carry weapons. This uncomfortable fact has its origins as a “common sense” law
passed during the slavery era. People were so afraid of the Wodes, the “beasts of burden with token humanoid
characteristics,” that giving one a weapon was considered akin to slitting your own throat. So it remained for a
long time, until Acerbatians realized that keeping slavery would destroy their economy.
   It was all just a front to impress other nations. Sure, slavery was banned, but any effort to make the former
slave’s life better was just for show, and the idea that the beasts should be allowed weapons was an idea
favored only by fanatics.
   And the Wodes, of course, but they don’t count because of tradition. It’s not like they really fought for it,
anyway. In fact, the first one to ever actually wear a weapon was Amanda, and that was just because she wasn’t
going to let Lacklee carry it.
   So the soldiers of the compound who surrounded the duo noticed first the haggard, excited Lightfoot, the
Wode she was handcuffed to, and finally the double bladed sword strapped to it’s back.
   “I’ll do the talking.”
   “Oh no you won’t.” Amanda straightened up, keeping a tight grasp on the sword a soldier was trying to take
away. “Which one of you is Captain Howlowitz?”
   “Who are you to be asking, beast?” said one with bars on his shoulders. Lacklee knew him to be a bad
officer immediately, and not just because they were merely surrounded.
   Amanda continued. “Yesterday you gave written permission for the prisoner Lacklee le Naphtha to exercise
here, accompanied by her warden.” She used the hand attached to Lacklee’s to produce the papers.
   The captain’s eyes narrowed. “Where did you get those?”
   “Here she is.” Amanda raised their handcuffed wrists. Lacklee smirked while Howlowitz blanched and was
forced to look at the papers. He glowered.
   “I was
not informed that I would be letting an obsessive whack job and a sniveling beast into my training
   “Of course you weren’t. I wanted permission to be granted.”
   Murmurs ran through the ranks, like water over dusty ground. The soldier holding the sword loosened his grip,
allowing Amanda to reach over and unlock the handcuffs. To Lacklee: “Play nice, and come when I whistle.”
   Lacklee rubbed her freed wrist and expressed everyone’s sentiment. “Amanda, you are one bold mother------
   “Language,” Amanda scolded gently, but Lacklee didn’t hear her as she was already off making an
 Let’s pretend these are Apprentices! “Alright troops! Let’s see how you do one-on-one.” Let’s also pretend
that I’m content with this false training sequence and so won’t use you to escape.
“Who’s first?”
   Amanda watched the Passion come out. It started in her eyes as an obsessive glint, as a deliriously happy
spark that made even the trained soldiers back away. One soldier, however, accepted her challenge and
   Lacklee stood her ground, and the Passion spread to her face. So very, very smug. Like she knew exactly
what would happen. And when it did happen, when his saber feinted from her neck and cut towards her chest,
Amanda watched it explode into action. A single step to the left, plant one tip of the two-bladed sword into the
ground. Use it to vault into the soldier, deliver a kick to the face. The Passion dripped off her in visible,
shimmering waves. The metal screeched against the stone ground. The Soldier landed on her feet; the soldier
crumbled to his knees. Twirl the sword, and with easy grace, swing it in a powerful arc to his neck.
   Everyone but Amanda flinched. It seemed inexplicable when the blade stopped, a hair’s breadth away from
his neck. There was no sound except the shallow gasping of the downed soldier.
   Finally, Lacklee spoke. “You suck at fighting,” she said, and the voice of the Soldier was as cold as the steel
she held. “But you were foolhardy enough to attack first. Let’s work on making your death meaningful, yeah?”
   Amanda smiled to herself, a small smile but true. In the shade, she took the role of a living statue, a guardian
watching over a shockingly bloodless dance. The former lead buzzed angrily in her ear.
   Howlowitz was only the former lead because he lacked the courage to yell at anyone but the passive
observer. Somehow, that knowledge annoyed her a lot more than it used to. “Shut up already.”
   He was not taken aback by her sudden words. “How dare you speak like that to me. You are just a lowly
beast, and I--”
   “I am not a beast.” Although she did sound like it, with her voice rumbling in her chest. “I am Amanda, warden
to the most dangerous criminal minds in this nation, put in that position by top officials in your government.” She
cocked her head so that Howlowitz could see her black eyes, and the cold fury in them. “If you don’t trust me,
you don’t trust your bosses. Shall I include that in my report?”
   Now he was phased. “You can’t do that, you’re just an animal!”
   “I can and I will. If you stop the verbal abuse now, I’ll go easy on you.” Her gaze never wavered, but her will
Whatever happened to “Nobody can hurt me without my permission?”
   While Amanda was asserting her authority for the first time ever, Lacklee was utilizing the obstacle maze.
Who was the bonehead that put the high parts next to the wall? Oh well, if it works, use it. “Alright, troops!” she
bellowed from within the maze, “find the enemy! And remember, she’s a squirrelly little bastard.” She chuckled
to herself.
   She didn’t mind playing the enemy. Quite the contrary, actually. These kids had so much potential, it was no
wonder they were so easy to defeat. Potential is nothing when your life is on the line.
   Hoisting herself up, she thought,
It’s too bad, really. They learn so quickly, it’d be nice if I could stay and--
   Shut up, Soldier, and get with the program. These are the enemy, and you have a chance to escape. Take
it, run like hell to the Mechanic’s, and wait until you can run out of the city.
   No, you can’t take Amanda with you. She’s part of the enemy, too. Remember, mush-for-brains?
   Yes, Lacklee remembered, so it was only with a mournful sigh that she swung her legs over the wall and
prepared to leap down. Looks like the barbed wire is in coils just big enough for her to squeeze through.
   A low whistle from her left proved to be a welcome distraction. A quick glance turned into an incredulous
gape upon viewing Amanda calmly straddling the wall, lips still puckered from the whistle. “When did you get
   Obviously, she had not seen her leap from her spot and dash along the top of the maze. “An obstacle maze?
Really? Why not just scream ‘escape attempt?’”
   Lacklee glowered. Despite their job titles, this felt like treachery. “What are you going to do about it?”
   Amanda watched her Passion prepare itself against her, and allowed the staged disappointment to melt
from her face. “I thought we could either leave now, or I could tell that stupid head captain that I felt like joining in.
Your choice.”
   Lacklee glared at her, not willing to believe that was regret on her face. “Why are you being so nice to me?”
   “Oh puh-leeze,” Amanda retorted, exasperated, and Lacklee prepared for a typical Acerbatian cluster----.
What she got was the truth. “I’m not being nice to you. I’ve trapped you in a cozy cage with no regard to your
Passion. I’m watching you dwindle away and am thwarting real attempts to resuscitate yourself.” Her fangs
grew unbidden, and Amanda knew she had said too much. So, she stopped talking and simply looked at the
prisoner again.
   That look was the same one she had given her when they first met, Lacklee realized sickly. The only
difference was that this one was real. Lacklee was nothing but prey, and those eyes said she wouldn’t even be
very challenging.
   That was why when Amanda told her to get off the wall, she got off.

   “One afternoon in the café where I work, I was serving a group of boisterous Lightfeet men when a very
pregnant Lightfoot interrupted them. She spoke to only one of them, asking only what his favorite word was.
This strange question caused the other men to disappear like magic, something graciously accepted by the
remaining man and woman. This was their conversation, as best as I can remember.
Male: My favorite word is inveigle.
Female: Mine’s modulate.
Male: Modulate Inveigle?
Female: Sounds good. Modulate Inveigle la Pulchritude?
Male: I think Modulate Inveigle le Reparatory sounds better.
Female: Hmm, I agree. I grew up at Lela Paz Orphanage in Sniggling  under Scrawl Cohesion La Arbiter.
Male: I’m really not liking the politics there, but my O.D. died a few years back.
Female: I’m sorry.
Male: It’s ok. When are you due?
Female: Three months.
Male: I’ll be there at Lela Paz in four.
   After that, the woman left. No goodbyes were exchanged. The other men came back. They mentioned her
only briefly, during which it was ascertained that the child the woman was carrying was his. They soon got back
to their former rowdiness.
   It seems I stumbled onto the Lightfoot naming ritual. It was pretty unexciting, even with learning that “le”
indicates the father’s last name and “la” indicates the mother’s. Apparently, they take real words and stick them
together in pleasing ways.
   That’s strange to me. Names are the first things created in a society. What’s it like to be so Passionate you
can’t be bothered to name your kid?
 --essay submitted by a high school student Pat Williams, entitled “A Day At Work.” Teacher
comments: “B: good story, but not pertaining to title. Some research on Lightfeet would make this a decent

   Hours later, they boarded a bus, flushed and laughing from endorphins. It was a needed break for both of
them: Lacklee to embitter herself to the differences between friends and allies, and Amanda to process exactly
what she had revealed.
   They didn’t want to be by each other for this, so Lacklee sat behind Amanda. They were wearing handcuffs
again, so Amanda’s arm was forced behind her. Lacklee got a little sadistic pleasure out of it, but only a little.
   When she spoke again, it was to prolong the inevitable into the ignorable. “Isn’t it weird how there are buses,
but the most effective weapons are swords?”
   Amanda recognized it as what it was and complied. “There are guns. I get mugged by one once a month.”
   “Yeah, I saw it. That thing’s more effective as a club.”
   “Ah. Well, maybe it’s magic. I know that’s how the buses run.” She had asked incessantly until someone in
the business gave her a detailed answer.
   “Magic can’t make them run on time?” Lacklee asked, smirking.
   “That’s quite a backtrack, Miss It’ll-Be-Here-In-Two-Minutes.”
   “I’m changing the subject back before the endless mocking begins,” Amanda replied, grinning. “I was
thinking maybe the magic makes it tricky to handle or…something.”
   “You’ve just given me another reason for me to mock you,” Lacklee laughed. “And I don’t know what it is, but
even the military can’t improve on them.”
   “Oh, how terrible.” Light sarcasm.
   “Yeah, I know. Even I can’t find a decent gun, and I’ve been all around the world!”
   “Wow. You’d think a Mercenary would be able to ghhk--”
   Lacklee yanked on the handcuffs until Amanda’s arm was helpless behind her and wrapped her own arm
around the Wode’s neck. Amanda made a token grab at it with her free hand. Lacklee leaned in so that her lips
were a whisker’s breadth away from her ears. “What did you call me?” she hissed.
   Amanda squirmed: ears sensitive enough to be tickled by steam turned hisses into steel wool. “I called you a
Mercenary,” she muttered, not showing her teeth. “You wouldn’t be offended, would you?”
   Lacklee squeezed tighter against her throat. “When have I …
ever… claimed to be a mercenary?”
   Amanda didn’t struggle. “Says so on the papers given to me.” She listened to Lacklee’s breathing get
shorter, angrier. “And you have no army.” With her last breath, she added, “Sounds like a mercenary to me.”
   The snipe didn’t bring any epiphany, nor was it supposed to. “I am a Soldier,” she whispered, “I am nothing
without the perils or the tedium. I fight for freedom, with those fighting for their culture. I fight for those willing to
fight for themselves, and I never-” she tightened her arm “-ever-” she tightened it enough to feel the gurgling-
“seek payment. That is why I’m a Soldier. Do
not play word games with my Passion.”
   Amanda stopped gurgling. Lacklee was fairly certain that she had passed out, and decided that she shouldn’
t expend any energy on an unconscious combatant. She loosened her arm and went for her sword.
   But Amanda was never unconscious; she was merely patient. When Lacklee freed her throat, her eyes flew
open and she sank her fangs into the offending arm. Venom pulsed into her blood, as cold as ice and burning
because of it. Lacklee had time for one incredulous look before she fainted.
   Amanda withdrew her fangs- the fangs she had earned by watching her words, ironically enough- and
sighed. When her stop came, she scooped Lacklee up and deboarded. But before she did, she cast a glance
at all the people who had seen what had happened and had done nothing.
   If they felt regret for their inaction, she couldn’t see it.

   “I’ve noticed that every time a Lightfoot is interviewed, the question of orphanages is always raised. Ah, well.
As a Sociologist, it is my place to put the matter to rest.
   “First off, yes, I was in fact raised in a Lightfoot Orphanage. The name ‘orphanage’ is a misnomer, however,
as up to 90% of us had two living parents. The question of parents was far from our minds, though, because in
place of parents was the Orphanage Manager. My studies show that OM’s are universally kind and just, with a
proper mix of hardness needed to discipline unruly children, and analytical skills needed to deduct what a
flailing infant’s Passion is. Mine was named Mr. La Memorandum, and it is with childish ego that I maintain he
was the best OM a youngster could hope to have.
   “Right next to the Orphanage was the Lightfoot Cemetery. La Memorandum would guide us to the
Cemeterian, the one who runs the cemeteries, when we were old enough, and she would show us around the
mausoleums. In this way, we would learn that yes, while everyone has to die, we could all give great
contributions to the world. In return, our names would be immortal.
   “While I was interested in this part of the tour, others would gaze in awe at the towering tombstones. They
easily surpassed even the adults, even Human adults, as each stone had to have the individual’s Passion,
name, list of achievements, and genealogy. The stones were often the only place such things were ever
recorded publicly, and in their entirety.
   “I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the artistic value of the stones. My favorite was of one Banka Impala la
Jackals, a Geologist who lived one hundred and fifty years ago. His tombstone was shaped like Mt. Victors, but
sliced open to see the many layers of rock. His achievements were encrypted in geologist jargon, as it should
have been.
   “But I digress, I’m sorry. You were curious about the OM. Yes, La Memorandum sometimes did have trouble
deciphering a Passion. Usually, when a kid sticks their finger in a socket repeatedly, they’re an Electrician, you
know? The child banging pots and pans is a Musician, get her some drums and a soundproof room. There was
only one time I ever saw the Madness of the Dead start to overtake a child, and once is enough. No, I don’t feel
like going into it, except to say that she turned out to be a Photographer. Twenty years ago, that profession was
in it’s infancy, known by a bare few. La Memorandum practically had to reinvent it so the child could live.
   “The Orphanage Manager and the Cemeterian are the most respected Passions in my meager Lightfoot
culture. That is because everybody has to be born, but raising a child will induce the Madness in most adults.
Everybody has to die, and nobody wants to be forgotten.
   “I hope these answers are satisfactory. Now, may we get on with something a little more related to
                   -excerpt from Jelled Wakulla le Jeddah, Sociologist interviewed by Neural and Psychological
Sociology Magazine

   When Lacklee’s eyes fluttered open again, she was back in the cell. A neat little bandage had been placed
over the bite mark, and she groaned to see it. Whatever that beast hid in her mouth had hit her head like a ton
of feathers: an embarrassing something to be trapped under.
   Turning her head slightly, she noticed that the door to the apartment was half open. Concentrating, she heard
two voices: that of the Wode, and that of the colonel who had first come here, the one Amanda had named
Colonel Boss.
   He was speaking. Yelling, really. “…and those stunts at the training circle completely humiliated our troops!”
   “Not my problem. Go yell at the people who failed to meet the challenge.” Amanda, in a shockingly assertive
   “I am. Don’t think I didn’t hear about those four separate escape attempts. Your job is to recruit her, not allow
her to use us until she escapes!”
Recruit me?! I’d rather choke on my own vomit, you miserable mangy son of a diseased warty cur!
   “She needed the exercise. It’s impossible to recruit the dead or insane. And by the way, it would’ve been
fabulous to know that Lightfeet have an actual, literal deadline,” Amanda shot back defensively.
   “I knew you couldn’t handle it. I can get the firing squad arranged as early as tomorrow.” The sound of heavy
shoes walking away.
“NO!” The colonel stopped short, no doubt struck by the alien tone of the cry. The beast stiffened, made
herself pretend to be human again. “You’ll get your Soldier, just like you got your other talented criminals.
Amenities will be made if you want her sane, though.”
   Hesitation. “Tell you what, beast,” he said, “You turn this one, I’ll forget to add that incident on the bus to my
   “How good of you,” was the reply. “Nice to know your spies will help those in need.”
   “Sarcasm is not necessary,” he sniffed. “Besides, you should be glad I heard about that. It makes all those
worrisome rumors of friendship between you two false.”
   “It takes twenty years to make a friend,” Amanda growled, in a voice so unexpectedly harsh the hairs on
Lacklee’s arms and neck stood up. “Until then, you’re friendly acquaintances. Now if chit-chat time is over, get
out and let me do my job.”
   Silence. Next thing she saw was Amanda shutting the door firmly behind her. Without looking at the prisoner,
she padded softly into the kitchen. Lacklee listened to her shakily pour a cup of coffee, only to drop it. The crash
was perfectly suited for the moment. Amanda must’ve noticed it too, because a moment later there was a
second crash. Then a third. Then, with an unstifled shriek of “Intaka de more!” all the plates started being
   Lacklee listened to the porcelain carnage and tried to order her thoughts.
   1.) Amanda’s job is to get me to like this state. Like it enough to join it. Fat ----ing chance.
   2.) Amanda considers her to be a patient, and nothing more.
 That can’t be right. I’ve spent so much time with her, and we haven’t always talked about Acerbate. In fact,
most of it was not.
   Also, seriously doubt that she’s ever lost it like this- CRASH- in front of true patients.
   So she’s an unwilling combatant. Of course! She just doesn’t know she’s fighting for the wrong side.
crashing stopped, and Amanda walked out, a jerky, twitchy rendition of calm.
OK, more likely, she doesn’t
know how to fight for the right side.
She watched her settle into her chair, lone surviving coffee mug steaming,
before saying anything. “Geez, what’s got you so riled?”
   “It’s Shoot Your Mouth Off Day, and I should know better than to partake,” her warden replied coolly, eyes still
   “In your defense,” Lacklee responded carefully, kindly, “people have been really irritating today.”
   “It doesn’t matter. It
shouldn’t matter. I know better than to shoot my mouth off.” A hand drifted to her mouth,
gently scratched a nonexistent fang.
   “That’s stupid.”
   “It is
not stupid.” She glared at Lacklee as if she had insulted an integral part of her, which she had.
   “Your plates wouldn’t agree with you,” she grinned nonchalantly.
   “What do you want me to do, maintain a level of rage that keeps me just above the functioning level of
   “Yes, but with a direction and a purpose,” Lacklee responding, seemingly unaware of the unprecedented
hostility Amanda was radiating. “Directionless rage leaves you with broken dishes or worse.”
   “And directed rage leaves you unintended, horrid consequences. Been down
that road before, can’t make
me think differently.”
   “Maybe it was the wrong direction.”
   “Ohhhhhh, the
wrong direction! I guess it’s just a matter of putting your life in the right direction!”
   “Exactly!” Lacklee beamed. “It isn’t that harrryour coffee’s boiling over.”
   Unbidden fangs still exposed, she grumbled, “Alkta.” At the word, the liquid boiled angrily, spilling over the
edges and burning her fingers. “Yikes!”
   “Geez. With regular sarcasm doing that, I’d hate to see what the sarcasm tense does.”
   “Yeah, this is piddly in comparison.” Amanda responded without thinking, blowing on her fingers. She tried
not to notice Lacklee grinning like a fool.
   “You’ve used it, haven’t you?”
   “Come on, admit it!”
   “The experts say it doesn’t exist.”
   “These are the same experts who say nothing but death can stop a rabid Lightfoot.” She raised her
bandaged arm. “You sure as hell stopped me.”
   “Don’t remind me,” Amanda grimaced, bringing her almost empty cup to her face.
   Lacklee took that as an invitation. “So when
have you used the sarcasm tense?” She asked, leaning
   “I haven’t.”
   “Yes you have!”
   “No. Stop bugging me.”
   “Come ooooon.”
   “That’s hardly fair. You know my life story, practically. Besides, what’re friends for, if not for sharing dirty little
   Bam! Stage is set. Amanda could blow her off and prove herself the enemy, or she could tell and admit to
herself who’s side she’s on. Lacklee congratulated herself on making the scenario.
   Moreover, she could tell by the how Amanda’s eyebrows were knitting together that she saw the stage too.
Breathlessly, she watched the beast’s lips purse for a sarcastic remark; then they relaxed to sigh. Next time she
spoke, it was with a straight gaze to Lacklee.
   “I’ve used the sarcasm tense twice in my life. Once as a child when I thought I was angry, and once as an
adult when I truly was.”
   Lacklee smiled, with more achievement than enthusiasm, then settled herself as close as she could to
Amanda. “Tell me about it.”
   “The first time was after my mother told me I couldn’t go out at high noon.”
Why am I doing this? “I had been
planning on going to a friend’s house, and despite the desperate heat, it seemed inexplicable and unfair when
she said no.
Ha! Inexplicable? Every single day, it became appallingly hot at noon. No hunting goes on, no working, no
moving at all to avoid dizziness. As a bonus, falling asleep gets you an
altellah- a heat hangover. It’s a time
for quiet play, like I had poorly planned with my friend.
“I was young enough to throw a tantrum, which my
mother always duly ignored, except to say ‘You’ll never earn your ears if you don’t listen.’”
   Lacklee remembered the split second of large, furry ears and nodded, more knowingly than she really was.
“So after that?”
   “Well, she
always said that. This time, I had finally prepared a comeback that showed the depth of my
prepubescent rage. In the sarcasm tense, I shouted, ‘Yeah, listening to you will get me elephant ears!’”
   Lacklee cracked up for the longest time. Eventually, Amanda chuckled with her. “So what did she do to you?”
   “Oh, after the plants died and the paint finished peeling, my dear, sweet mother smiled, smacked me, and
made me clean everything up.” She grimaced. “Those pots took weeks to repaint.”
   “Repaint? …You weren’t exaggerating?”
   Amanda laughed at her puzzlement. “No, the sarcasm tense really does make plants whither, paint peel, and
water boil. I was unaware of that when I said it. By the way, I’d appreciate your not telling anybody.”
   “Oh yeah, no problem. So what happened the second time?”
   Her face grew dark. “There’s nothing funny about being so angry at someone you set out to hurt them.”
   “Who was that?”
How innocently you ask. Would it surprise you to learn that I was a slave? That I was among those ripped
from the jungle, my home, stripped of dignity and self, and sold like so much chattel? Not to mention being
forcibly separated from everyone who could’ve helped me grieve.
   Ventihakya, I thank thee for sparing my parents this. I miss them, but they deserved to die in the peace of
home, not here. Never here.
   It was after the fourth escape attempt, I think. I knew it would be my last one: either I would be free, or I
wouldn’t survive the beating that “master” would give upon my return.
   I remember that so well. I was so naïve, so rash, so angry, so new to the loneliness of being a widow. When
they finally trapped me, I was half-crazed with all these things, and unafraid to bite. When they cornered me,
it was a dozen to one; when they captured me, it was four to one. Even tied and gagged, I managed to reduce
their group. The remaining three tossed me, kicking and screaming, into the nearest cell there was.
   The men’s holding cell, of all things.
   So imagine this: a room full of petty criminals, all of them bragging about their exploits, and all of them
withholding the knowledge that they haven’t had sex in an “indecent” amount of time. Interrupt the posing is
an angry, young-looking female who is tossed in and abandoned. Me.
   My quick and violent battle with the ropes scared them a little and kept them at bay, but their dangerous
desire for pleasure would soon overpower them. I  wasn’t afraid, though. Sure, even through the language
barrier, I understood what the lip smacking and stares meant for me. I was too busy being furious to be
afraid. How could they blatantly ignore the spirals down my arm? Not that they knew or cared I wasn’t
emotionally available, but reason wasn’t a huge part of that day. Besides, what made me snap was the
prevalence of the words “beast,” “animal,” and above all…
   “Oh, I AM impressed. It’s THRILLING to see boys so desperate for pussy it doesn’t matter if it’s from, in
fact, an actual pussy.”
    I remember the dumbfounded stares more than the sizzling of graffiti. Mostly I remember the shock at
seeing some compassion finally enter some faces. It meant that the sarcasm tense not only allowed them to
know what I was saying, it accurately depicted the depth of the emotion.
   It was with fury and sadism that I spoke again. I don’t remember what all I said, but some hairs turned white.
A small price to learn compassion, I thought. And I, hurt and angry, took the power of the sarcasm tense and
ran with it. I wanted to hurt somebody, and they were the closest.
   So I talked. Ranted, really, for hours. In the sarcasm tense, I told these men, these brutes, everything I had
suffered through. About my life, my husband, about the torture of slavery, the indignity of these names.
“Amanda?” That’s not my name. That’s not who I am.
   When I wept, the leftover paint merely sizzled; when I raged, the metal seats glowed. Those men were
transfixed, they couldn’t stop listening, and wouldn’t if could, even as their comrade’s head turned white. I was
both drunk on power and free to mourn properly at last, and it looked like the only cost was hair color. So
   Finally, someone interrupted me. Someone outside the cell, outside the spell, to put it arrogantly. I was
feeling refreshed, so only threw a small barb of reproach, still in the sarcasm tense. In response, I was ripped
from the cell. And the men were actually angry at how I was handled. That was the compassion I had pleaded
   I had induced major changes in these men. At the time I was proud. I did not think of my future. Others did
that for me.
   Heck, how could I? My “master” was sick of me. It was two feet into the street, chained and muzzled, that
the beating started. I was going to die. Did I want to? …Well, desire had nothing to do with it.
   It was cut short, though. It was all a blur of pain and unfamiliar words, but it resulted in coins exchanged
and me being dragged back into the building, away from “master.”
   It was several days before they deigned to tell me the reason for the mercy. Slowly, to accommodate my
ignorance of the language, it was explained that all the men I had spoken to were leading radically different
lives. Any capability they had for hate crime was obliterated. Most were even going out of their way to be kind
to Wodes. I was smiling until they told me to “work that Wode magic” on a man on Death Row. He had talents
that they wished to utilize, but they were the same talents that had gotten him there. He would be granted
amnesty, should I be able to “adjust his focus.”
   “No” was the only word I knew well, and it was the one I used, over and over again. I couldn’t articulate to
them that it was my fury now spent, my desolation now eased that had truly changed those men. I couldn’t
replicate it if I wanted to, which, by the way, I didn’t. But all I could say was “No! I won’t do.”
   They were kind enough to correct my grammar and cruel enough to remind me how much choice I had.
The scars faded only recently.
   That night I sat awake in my new quarters and pondered how I got there. I had run away again. I had used
the sarcasm tense to oblivion. How were they connected? In the dark, cold night, assaulted by unfamiliar
noises, it dawned on me.
   The sarcasm tense will never give you happiness. It might bestow brief satisfaction, but what comes after
is what will stay.
   And if I hadn’t run away, this would’ve never happened. No matter how much you might run, there will
always be something chasing you, justly or unjustly. There is no flying away from conflict.
   If I tried to fly from this new one, I would be captured and beaten again. And again. And again. It would be
better to face this, because not only is flying foolish and selfish, it’s impossible.
   As I realized this, my arms started to itch. Feathers burst out, brown, deep purple where my spirals were,
and a gorgeous pink I had never seen in the jungle, only in the city.
   I had earned my wings.
   Lacklee listened to the falsehood Amanda mumbled out and nodded. Whatever the real story was wouldn’t
be brought out easily, but she knew it could. Besides, there was already so much progress in one day, she
shouldn’t get greedy.
   3.) Amanda is an enemy noncombatant, and the mission is to give her the courage to fight for the correct
side. Heh, she gets to recruit the recruiter. She smiled at the irony, then frowned and added a fourth conclusion.
   4.) Screw that “it takes twenty years to make a friend” shit. As a Soldier, needing to know who to trust your
life with immediately is essential, and quickly learned, or you end up dead. Since she’s not dead yet, her
instincts obviously work.
   So there.
Wodes and Lightfeet
Chapter Six: Friends vs. Allies
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