The click of her measured steps echoed around her as she walked down the empty, sterile hallway; a hallway that was so glossy and white, it was almost blinding, and she found herself wishing she had on her sunglasses to shield her from the abrasive glare. She was soon standing in front of a door that swished open as she approached, and this took her by surprise, although she was trained not to show it. She had seen a lot of doors in her life; doors that slammed shut, heavy wooden doors with an unnecessary collection of locks attached, doors that were so thick you wouldn’t be able to hear if someone was screaming on the other side. But a door that swished open in this way, so gentle and quiet, so proper and polite. It was almost like magic.
On the other side of the magically swishing door was a room, decorated in muted shades of sage and gray, and she found herself feeling out of place as she stood on a soft, thick stone colored carpet in her heavy black boots and combat attire. Directly in front of her was a small man sitting at a massive desk, he was the smallest man she had ever seen. Men that she knew in the Malum were tall, and broad shouldered, with rippling muscles taut from hard labor and constant combat. She found herself wondering why this tiny man would choose to sit behind such a large desk, and she was wondering this as the man flipped through a stack of papers on his enormous desk, completely expressionless, until he glanced up as if he had just noticed she was there.
“Name?” He asked, his voice as thin and crisp as the papers in his hand.
“I have no name. I cannot be anybody, therefore I am nobody.” Her response came without a thought. It was the company line, after all, and she had been taught to not only say it but to believe it and to live it since the day she was born.
He waved his hand impatiently, as if to clear the room of her robotic recitation. “I mean your name for this mission”
“Oh,” Confusion, a feeling as foriegn to her as surprise. She wasn’t accustomed to being caught off guard, she wasn’t used to not having the answer. She didn’t like it. “I haven’t given it much thought.”
“Good thing it doesn’t require much thought.” His impatience was growing. “Name?”
She shrugged as if it didn’t matter, and to be honest, it really didn’t. If she didn’t like the name she chose, she could pick a new one within a month, less if she completed this mission as quickly as she knew she would. This was her first mission, after all, and she had been trained and prepared for this all of her life. All she had ever known were the cold stone and steel walls of the Citadel, this was the first time she had ever even stepped foot inside the administration building. She was aware that she had lived all of her days in a very small part of Triumphia, and she had been taught that outside of the land of her people, there was a larger world. She had even seen many of her fellow Malum be called up to do their own missions, and sometimes they would return with glorious tales of different places, exotic people, strange foods and breathtaking adventures. If they returned. Some of them never did. But that was understood when you were part of the Malum, the elite army of mercenaries whose main purpose was to protect and serve the empire of Triumphia. And if you lost your life in that service, you would die a nameless, faceless soldier, but you would bring pride to your home. She was ready to go out into that wild world and prove herself, and she didn’t care what name she used while she did it.
“Braya” She said, confidently.
He started writing and then frowned slightly. “Braya. Really? You think?”
She didn’t know many names. Everyone she had grown up around either had no name, like herself, or went by their surname, like the instructors and guards. But there had been one man, a guard who had shown her kindness during a time when she needed it like oxygen.
She had been at the Citadel from the time she had been removed from her mothers arms directly after birth. It was the way of Triumphia. In order to enjoy all the protections that the empire had to offer, each family had to pledge at least one child to the Malum. The cold faced government officials who ran the Citadel did not want a child when they had already gone soft from the love of a parent, they wanted a blank slate that they could write anything on. Early on in her life, it seemed she had not adapted as well to this as some of the other Malum recruits. When she had been around five years old, a longing had hit suddenly, a longing for what she now knew was called love. For weeks, she had cried in her tiny, gray room all night, and she had begun acting out during classes, and she was punished harshly for it. One night, a guard had stood in her doorway and watched her as she sobbed into her thin blanket. She thought that she had pushed her luck far enough, and he was there to haul her away to The Nowhere, a place that some young recruits who couldn’t pass their physical exams would be taken, and then never heard from again. But this guard quietly walked into her room, and wrapped her shaking body into a thicker blanket he had carried in with him. And then he began to sing to her, a song she had never heard. It told the tale of a tiny bluebird who had gotten lost in a dark forest, but finally found his way out to a sparkling meadow of sun and flowers. As he sang, she felt her tense muscles unwind, and the tears on her face dry. She had asked him what the song was, and he had gently told her that it was a song he would sing to his own daughter before she went to bed. She asked him what his daughter’s name was. He told her it was Braya.
The man behind the big desk impatiently tapped his pen on his notebook, waiting for her response.
“Yes, sir. That’s my name” Braya responded.
He shrugged and continued writing. A few minutes later he handed her a sealed envelope which would contain the instructions for her next steps, and the details of her mission. She took the envelope with fingers that felt as if they were electrically charged, and she turned and walked out of the room. Once the door had swished closed behind her, she opened the envelope, eager to see where she was going. Her eyebrows knitted together as she read the words CORVER CITY. The details sheet was accompanied by a glossy eight by ten photograph of a stunningly handsome man, the kind of man who smiled at you as if he knew your deepest secrets. “Sebastian”, Braya whispered, “I’m coming for you”.