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Character Development Challenge

Wren Ridere, Age 12

Prompt: Who does your character trust?

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Wren stared blankly at the wall behind the officer across the table. It hadn’t been more than a few hours since the explosion during navigation training. She hadn’t even been given a chance to change out of the bloody clothes before the entire group was taken in for questioning.

She had given her report and yet they still hadn’t dismissed her. All she wanted to do was to go change and sleep. Instead, it seemed that they were planning on doing psych evaluations on everyone that had witnessed the explosion. She’d been through plenty since they did an evaluation after every successful hit.

“I need you to talk to us, Wren.” The officer moved into her line of vision and she was forced to focus on something other than the wall. Why couldn’t they get that she didn’t want to talk to them. That she knew they didn’t really give a damn. “You can trust us; none of your peers will know anything that you’ve said.”

Overall, she had been doing so well at keeping her cool but the whole trust comment was such a riot. The laugh bubbled up before she had a chance to even think about stopping it. It was cold and bitter; a sound she was just as surprised to hear come out of her mouth as the officers were.

“Trust you?” She narrowed her eyes and glanced from face to face, snorting at each one of them. “Like that’ll happen.”

“And why can’t you?”

If even a pen was within her reach, Wren would have thrown it at the unfortunate idiot who asked the question. Instead, she pinned him with what she hoped was her darkest look. “This stupid place has destroyed my family, ruined my childhood, and has taken more than one person I’ve cared about away. You think I want to place my trust in the adults who allowed that to happen?”

The shock was well worth the punishment she’d be receiving later. She didn’t take many chances like that but after watching Anna die from a mistake that was far more their fault than the navigators, she felt a little justified.

“How old are you again?” Now they were just asking stupid questions.

“Twelve,” she sighed, tapping her fingers on the table. Once she noticed the blood again though, she shoved her hands back under the table and pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders. She knew what they were thinking, what they were wondering, but she wasn’t lying about her age. This place made her grow up long before she should have and dammit if she wasn’t going to throw that back in their faces.

Since they were off in their own little world, she let her mind wander. The wandering led her gaze back down to her bloody hands and the blood that still covered her clothing. She didn’t want to look at it, to remember, but it was hard to drag her gaze away from it.

It wasn’t until she heard the chair across from her scrape against the ground that she was able to drag her gaze away from the blood staining her skin. Wren nearly pushed away from the table altogether when she realized her mistake. While she was entranced by the blood and the memories that tore at her carefully constructed wall, the other officers had left and in came the one person left that she wasn’t sure she could lie to.

“What are you doing here?” She couldn’t break. Not now and especially not in front of the Golden Boy.

“That should be obvious kiddo.” Phillipe leaned back in the chair, sticking one foot up on the table so that he wouldn’t tip over backwards. It was a habit that he hadn’t kicked and Wren felt great pleasure in kicking his chair and watching him fall backwards. Maybe that would show the officers they couldn’t use her brother to get what they wanted.

“Well go away Phillipe. I’m sure you have better things to do than to babysit your kid sister to appease the officers.” She loved him, really, but she couldn’t take this. Of all people, Phillipe was someone she knew she could trust but she didn’t want that shattered by his need to follow orders to the letter.

“I’m not here for them,” he was calmer than she expected, especially after she had knocked him over. All he did was set the chair back up and start around the table. “I told them that I couldn’t be their pawn for this. I’d talk to you but I wouldn’t report to them.”

The words coming out of his mouth were unbelievable. He was the star, the beloved soldier who could do no wrong, and here he was refusing orders for her. They were four years apart, which meant that he was gone for four years before she was taken into the camp and yet he was still very much the big brother she remembered.

Her bottom lip trembled as she realized that this was a safe place for the moment. If he refused the orders and yet they still let him talk to her, then he had to have negotiated something. Her eyes darted around the room to look for a microphone or a camera. The officers weren’t known to play fair.

“They can see us but they can’t hear us. I made sure of that.” He held up a broken wire and she laughed. Oh how she would love to see the look on their faces right about now. Their favorite was breaking lots of rules today. “I told you that I wasn’t here for them; I’m here for you.”

Anna had told her not to cry, not over what had happened, but her lip quivered and tears burned her eyes as her brothers arms wrapped around her. The promise she made to herself was only seconds away from being thrown to wind as she clung to Phillipe as the only comforting rock that she had.

“I can’t do this Phillipe,” she sniffled, burying her face in his shirt and forcing the tears down. She wouldn’t break her promise so soon. “I’m not like you. The people I’ve killed, they come back in my dreams, and now Anna is gone. I don’t think I’ll make it to graduation.”

He didn’t say anything while she vented about everything. She hadn’t ever had a chance to tell anyone everything she had felt since she entered the camp but this was a rarity she wasn’t going to let pass her by.

Once she was done though, her heart felt lighter and she was proud that she had managed to hold back the tears. She’d never cry again.

When Phillipe finally did pull back, it was only long enough to pull a handkerchief from his pocket and start wiping the blood from her face.

“You’re wrong Wren. You can do this.” Since he hadn’t interrupted her, she could offer him the same courtesy. “Anna used to talk about you all the time; she made sure that I knew how you were doing. She was so proud of you and I still am kiddo. You’ll make it out this stronger.”

“But Phillipe, I don’t feel like myself anymore.”

“Then make a new you; a feral you that is fit for this place and let the real you shine when you’re with the people you care about. Mom named you after a songbird but I always thought you were more like a wildcat anyway.” They both shared a short laugh over that and he held up one of her bloody hands. “Anna would have laughed so hard to know that you told off the officers. She enjoyed your rebellions.”

“I’m going to miss her…”

“She was a good friend,” for the first time, she realized that there were others who were close to Anna. Though they had talked about Phillipe sometimes, she hadn’t realized that Anna had been close to her brother too. “But you know what?”

“What?”

“If nothing else, you can still trust me. We have to stick together y’know.” His mouth twisted into a suspicious little smile and leaned against the table. “With our reputations, we can turn this camp on its head if we wanted.”

The idea was so absurd, so unlike him, that the laughter poured out of her almost uncontrollably. This wasn’t going to be a common thing but having him on her side made things much better.

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