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A Suddenly Queasy Stomach
Wed Jan 3, 2007 21:14 (XFF:,

Palms thick in their sweat, chest heaving, Evie vomited. She emptied her guts on the side of the path, pressed against the ground on all fours. Spitting, Evie felt sticky strands of saliva clinging doggedly to her lips, but she tried to remain unfazed. Oh, Light. If this was not the first time this had happened, she might have been alerted. In truth, it was not. For a rather lippy reaction to a Dedicated’s criticism, Evie had been assigned five laps of the Black Tower. It was all she could do to keep herself functioning, to keep her lungs breathing, to keep her stomach from–

Evie vomited again.

Pulling herself onto her feet, albeit shakily, Evie shook her head. In one month at the Black Tower, Evie was still in the process of acclimatizing herself, and what a process that was. She was confident in her ability to see this through, yes, because she could, but . . . oh, dear. It took moments like these for her to fight to recall why exactly she had chosen the Black Tower over the White. She only really wanted to learn the Power, to learn saidar, and . . . well, the Black Tower carried the more efficient regimen. Oh, Evie collapsed into beds some nights half-dead and wishing she could blot out the “half” out of that truth, but it was worth it. Well, would be worth it. Someday, it would be worth it.

Another figure jogged up to her, smiling confidently. “Come on, Evie. We’re only one lap away.” Evie had no idea how Kaseko Yerodin was able to maintain this pace for so long, but, somehow, the Kandori Soldier just was. The girl was younger than Evie by a year, and a fair bit shorter than she was, but Kaseko, even at age fourteen, had unseen springs of energy within her. She could run five laps of the Tower without so much as vomiting once. Remarkable.

As Evie pressed herself forth, she felt gratitude toward the other Soldier. She had known the girl for a couple of weeks now, but they had never been really more than mild acquaintances; of their “clique,” so to speak, Evie felt stronger ties to Marietta. Although she despised Carley, she knew the other Soldier well. And Liang, Kaseko’s sister, had taken some time for Evie to warm up to, but the two young women got along just fine now. Even still, in spite of Evie and Kaseko’s limited friendship, the younger Soldier had defended her in front of the harlot of a Dedicated. Such an act had earned Kaseko the same punishment, yes, and the dark-haired girl had not even complained once.

Some time passed, and, at last, Evie and Kaseko crossed the threshold of the final lap together, ending up somewhere around the vicinity of the East Exercise Yard. Panting wildly, Evie collapsed against the wall of the Infirmary. This was just hard. Growing up, Evie had not been lazy at all (swimming was probably the best thing in the world), but she had been no juggernaut of a girl, either. She wasn’t weak; running until her feet fell off just had never really appealed to her as something she might want to do.

“Well,” Kaseko said brightly, breathing heavily, “it’s early afternoon. If you want, we could catch up to Marietta in the Blasting Grounds.”

Evie shook her head, peering at Kaseko. Light, but she could not help the subtle jealousy for the other girl’s appearance that inevitably poked up whenever Evie spent time in her company. Kaseko was, well, adorable, really: she was short and trim, with bright blue eyes and an even-toothed smile. Being with the girl made Evie even more conscious of her own too-broad shoulders, or her unfortunate, squarish nose. Kaseko’s long, black hair, smooth and hardly frazzled at all by the day’s wear, made Evie sometimes consider growing hers outs. Still, dirty blonde hair cropped boyishly short as Evie’s was–well, barring the longer bangs–was more practical, certainly. And she wasn’t a pompous, appearance-driven girl. No one had any reason to think she was.

“Um,” Kaseko said, pausing. “There’s a Traveling lesson starting somewhere around now, I think? In the Northern Yards? Might be worth a shot.”

Evie sighed. Stone wall or not, the side of the Infirmary really was strangely comfortable. In the end, Evie knew an Asha’man would wander in on them any moment now, and the last thing in the world she wanted was to be assigned another five laps. “Might as well.”

Not long after, Evie and Kaseko came strolling in on the Traveling lesson, which was hallmarked by a congregation of black-coated Soldiers and Dedicated around the two Asha’man. Evie recognized the male Asha’man as the Ambassador Track Head, though she couldn’t remember his name, and she didn’t think she’d ever seen the female Asha’man before, either. Nonetheless, she saluted to both. They asked of them information, and Evie and Kaseko recited their answers. She might only have been at the Tower a month, but the standard lesson introductions got dulll–and fast.

“I’m Soldier Kaseko Yerodin,” her friend said, beaming. “I’m fourteen and of the Spy Track.”

Evie followed suit. “Soldier Evie Holinshed, and I’m a Jack at fifteen years of age.”

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