The story so far:
Renni felt her gauntlets slide to her palms and form into the tool she needed. They narrowed into two even poles which she then joined together into one longer staff. Marshal swung his lithe body low, kicking out and angling for her knees. She easily jumped over his kick and swung out, catching him gently with the butt end of the staff. Something shiny caught her attention beyond the edge of the field where they sparred. She turned towards it, taking her mind from her recovering opponent. Marshal landed her on her back with one swift hooking kick to her belly.
“You well?” he asked her, leaning down and grasping her hand to help her up.
“Define well.” She turned but what ever had caught her attention was no longer there. “You ever get the feeling you’re being watched?”
“We were being watched.”
“Your grammar’s improved.” She twirled her staff but Marshal put his hand out to stop her.
“No. We are done. You are too distracted.”
“I’m fine, Marshal.”
“No Shepherd. We talk.” He moved to a fallen tree where they’d often sat and talked in the past. She pulled herself up onto it using several branches before planting herself in a huff. Again, the shiny glare caught her eye. Again she turned, this time getting a good look at what it was. She sighed and turned away, both frustrated and confused.
“Nemesis,” Marshal said.
He placed a calming hand on her shoulder as his body stretched up. Marshal never needed to climb the tree. His body could shape itself to what he needed, similar to the gauntlets. The only difference was his body had greater limitations, especially when he wore his armor.
“Is this not the right word? Not quite enemy. Not open enemy. In thought, in speech, in action and reaction. But not fight. You spar with words, not weapons.”
“Nemesis is the right word. I just never thought of him like that. He’s watched us every day since the incident in the mess hall. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like him, Marshal. He’s openly hostile to you and Phys. And he treats anyone wearing a unit as if they aren’t quite human anymore.”
“Yes. He does not trust.”
Renni plucked a small branch from the dead tree and twisted it between her fingers absentmindedly. “I don’t trust him. He’s been making his own rounds. Some of the people are starting to complain while others are...they’re being drawn in. He has this, I don’t know, this magnetism about him that makes people like him, even though he give others the creeps.”
“Creeps?” Marshal tilted his head to the side.
“Ah, creeps. Interesting word.” Renni let herself smile. She’d learned early on that Marshal liked interesting words, though more for their vibrations when he said them than for their meaning. “You are worried?” he asked after trying creeps out a couple more times. Worried was another of his favorite words.
“He’s dividing the camp. Some of our people are ready and willing to hold elections while others are adamantly against it. He’s also turning some against you and Phys. It feels like he has destroyed in four days what took us months to build.”
“What to do?
“I don’t know. Each day things get worse. It’s like a rubber band being wound too tight.”
“I do not understand.”
Renni focused on her gauntlets, one of which formed into a great loop. She twisted the loop over and over and over until it could withstand no more and the material broke away, snapping like a rubber band.