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Chapter 19: She woke up to a lot of shouting and her head cradled in somebody’s lap. Whoever held her was stroking her hair, which he probably meant to be a soothing gesture. But since he was one of the people yelling, the compassionate attempt wasn’t very effective.
Her ears strained to pick up the actual words of the disagreement even as she tried to shake off the feeling that her body was spinning in psychedelic circles. Her stomach still hurt too, though not nearly as badly. The pain had faded to a dull ache.
“You said you weren’t going to hurt her!”
“I don’t know why you’re complaining,” another man said with cruel indifference. “She’s alive.”
“You went a lot further than promising her alive.” It would have been a growl if the voice didn’t sound so young and panicked.
“It was for her own good.” He made the statement with the same casual brutality. “She could have hurt herself.”
The voices started sounding recognizable, and Sabrina tried to piece everything together without opening her eyes. The person holding her had to be Alex. And he was arguing with the very last person in the world she wanted to be around.
“She’d better be –” Alex started to say.
Mr. Smiley interrupted, sounding bored and smug at the same time, like his victory had always been a sure thing. “She’ll be fine.”
In that moment, Sabrina hated him with an intensity almost as strong as the nausea attacking her. Almost but not quite. The spinning circles behind her eyes won out so that everything faded away into oblivion.
Waking up the second time wasn’t any better.
A white ceiling met her gaze, and when she turned her head to either side, she saw more white. White walls and shiny silver equipment, from the large metal sink that sat ominously several yards off to the right, to the table that had been wheeled far too close to her. Where she lay, she couldn’t see what was on that table. But judging by its relatively small size, she could guess well enough. Probably an assortment of handheld medical equipment she’d rather not come into contact with.
Two medical lamps towered over the foamy mattress she was stretched out on. And there were several other pieces of equipment against the walls that she could see, including a defibrillator and a heart monitor, both of which she found overwhelmingly intimidating in the quiet room.
But neither those nor the also overwhelming amount of white space around her were as bad as the hard, cold plastic encasing her wrists and ankles, or the distinctive feeling of air against her bare legs.
Sabrina started to scream. She didn’t care that it was a clichéd response, or that she still had on what appeared to be a hospital gown. With her entire body pinned like a trapped butterfly, it still felt like the right thing to do. The only thing to do. So she didn’t even try to fight the urge.
Her wings quivered in automatic reaction, though the instinct did her no good. They were strapped down too.
Sabrina screamed long and loud and hard, not letting up a bit when she heard the sound of footsteps. The unhurried staccatos were too methodical to be coming from anyone who cared, but knowing that didn’t stop her from continuing to shriek. It felt as if she didn’t have any control over her vocal chords at all; they were working on their own.
Her prone position meant she couldn’t really see the person approaching her. But the suspense lasted a mere painstaking minute before Mr. Smiley’s gloating face appeared above her.
He wasn’t wearing his sunglasses, a detail that freaked her out even more.
His hand covered her mouth, and she tried to wrench her head away. But he just pushed down harder. It was a horrific feeling of déjà vu even if she could breathe this time.
“Calm down, Princess,” he directed. “Otherwise, I’m going to have to make you. And you don’t want that, do you?”
He made it sound so horrible that Sabrina did try to get a grip on herself, quelling the urge to be heard until she’d reduced it to sobs that merely shook her body.
“Good girl,” he said nastily, sliding his hand off her face to rest on the table right next to her cheek. “Dr. Anderton?”
Another person moved into sight, this one a slightly shorter man with a monk’s halo of salt and pepper hair. It was the one pious thing about him. His eyes were wide with excitement, and the smile on his narrow face didn’t bode well for her in any way, shape or form.
Sabrina compressed her lips more tightly together and closed her eyes, wishing herself a million light years away.
The cushioned slab she was on tilted, and she felt her bindings tighten against her wrists, ankles and wings until she was slanted all but vertical to the floor. The new angle gave her a better view of her surroundings and the demented doctor beside her. With his slim glasses and unbuttoned, white lab coat, he was an odd mixture of nerd and professional chic.
The needle he clutched with his slender fingers, however, was just plain frightening.
As a general rule, Sabrina wasn’t afraid of shots. But she objected to them big time when they were being administered by mad scientists. She could feel her heart pounding out a panicked pace inside her chest.
Dr. Anderton slipped a tourniquet around her left upper arm and secured it tightly, constricting her blood flow for his own personal use. She could feel her veins pulsing, while her head spun enough to make her physically miserable in addition to being emotionally distraught.
The fact that he slid the needle into her skin a total of five times didn’t help either. Apparently his excitement and her terror didn’t make for a very suitable clinical environment.
Three vials later, the tourniquet was removed and he started checking her vitals. Sabrina endured that with attempted stoicism; but by the time he got to checking her eyes with his little flashlight, his fingers holding her lids open, it got too much for her.
It started with just a tear. But that tear turned into four, which multiplied into twenty, which encouraged her ducts even more. She didn’t want to cry, not with Mr. Smiley’s frighteningly vague threat hanging over her head; yet the more they trickled out, the more difficult it became not to. She wanted the mother she’d never known, or Deanda or Dallas. Or her brother, with his intimidating voice and quick smile. Anyone who even remotely cared for her would do just fine.
Anyone but the people surrounding her.
Stepping back, Dr. Anderton scowled. “I need her to stop crying,” he said, his Scottish accent filled with utter annoyance.
Mr. Smiley stepped forward. “Sabrina.”
If he thought he could scare her into submission, he was dead wrong. Just the sound of her name on his lips made her sob harder. With her eyelids now free to blink, she squeezed them shut and gave in to her mounting despair.
“I can’t work like this.” The not-so-good HPAC doctor sounded like a whiny child.
“So knock her out then.” A decidedly cranky edge angled its way into Mr. Smiley’s voice too.
“I need her lucid,” Anderton complained.
It wasn’t any big surprise when Mr. Smiley had an equally simplistic and immature response. And so they continued bickering.
Sabrina would have continued crying uncontrollably except that something took her over. It was like she jumped through time, though her actual physical condition didn’t change at all.
What did change was that her vision split like she was watching two different TV screens at the same time. Both were in the same room with the same two callous monsters, but she could hear herself crying in the one. In the other, she was speaking.
Even before she could fully register the images, they split further and then again until she wasn’t watching dueling movies anymore, but rushing through a tunnel with passages that diverged everywhere she looked. At incredible speeds, she moved through one to the next and onward, down left pathways, then darting into right ones, which in turn split themselves into further tunnels.
And then it stopped just as quickly as it had started. In place of Dr. Anderton and Mr. Smiley, Alex stood there. He was wiping her tears away and kissing her forehead and apologizing over and over. But that too only lasted briefly before she felt herself yanked backward to the present.
The experience left her dumbfounded.
It all happened so fast that she didn’t think the two men had time to notice she’d gone silent. Though that could have also had something to do with their utter absorption in their argument. It was any wonder she could get their attention at all.
“You want me to shut up?” She asked, her voice breaking on every other word. “Get me Alex.”
“You’re not in any position –” Mr. Smiley began, only to be cut off.
“Just get the boy for her.” The doctor snapped.
The other man hesitated for a minute. But his maturity level seemed to have ratcheted upward from age five to something closer to a frat boy, because he ended up growling his compliance and stalking out.
Sabrina closed her eyes in relief. The ensuing silence gave her space to contemplate what had just happened. If she didn’t know better, she’d think she just traveled through time. She didn’t remember seeing any research about faeries being able to see into the future. And Deanda hadn’t told her about it either, as far as she could recall. But neither of those certainties seemed to matter since she was pretty sure she’d just done it.
The door clicked as someone opened it again. At first, all she saw was Mr. Smiley. Then Alex was beside her, cupping her face and running his thumbs gently across her eyes to dislodge trapped tears and wipe them away.
“Sabrina! Are you okay? Did they hurt you?”
“Alex.” She sniffled, wishing he could put his arms around her and she could snuggle into him. It didn’t matter that they weren’t alone in the room.
He kissed her forehead, then looked her straight in the eyes. “You need to tell me if they hurt you.”
“No.” She didn’t say “yet” even if she did know some kind of torture was in the cards. It was just a matter of time. She didn’t need to be a mad scientist to figure that out. “They just took some blood. Where are we?”
“I don’t know. I wish I did, but I don’t know.” His face radiated frustration and a whole lot of guilt. “You’re sure they haven’t hurt you?”
“Alex, don’t leave me. Please.” Her lower lip was trembling badly and her teeth chattered, but she still managed to get the words out.
Sabrina knew he was at least part of the reason why she was in such a horrible mess. However, if he didn’t care about her, he was doing an amazing job acting like he did. And she needed that: something to get through whatever was going to happen in the next few minutes. She wasn’t brave enough to face it alone. She wished she was, but she knew she wasn’t.
“I am so sorry, Sabrina,” he apologized, kissing her forehead again and confirming what she already knew. “I had no idea. I’m just so sorry.”
“Is she calm?” Dr. Anderton asked with an inhuman amount of enthusiasm, perusing her face for any telltale signs of remaining hysteria. “Not going to have any more shenanigans now, right?”
“She’d better be,” Mr. Smiley declared.
Sabrina didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to. Then again, neither of the HPAC employees seemed to require a response. Or maybe they found the look on her face satisfactory enough. In any case, Anderton started to hum something weird to himself while he inspected the nasty assortment of vials, needles and scalpels on the nearby tray.
The happy tune stood out in stark contrast against the situation.
Holding her hand tightly, Alex didn’t just look grim. He looked terrified and miserable and disgusted, and was obviously blaming himself. Which he should be, she knew. Because as unhappy as he looked, she was sure she would be feeling that much worse in a minute or two.
Fortunately for her, she didn’t get the chance to find out what the assorted instruments were for. Instead, the door went banging open with enough force to hit the wall. Four more men strode into the room, all wearing black suits. Behind them trailed four, white-gowned mad scientists.
None of them looked happy.
That was true of his attitude as well, since he started yelling right away, his exact words featuring distinctly trilled Rs from an over-pronounced accent and a whole lot of swear words.
“You wankers! Who the hell gave you the go ahead to initiate any of this? We had a plan in place. There was a schedule!”
“Sorry, mate,” Mr. Smiley responded with too much emphasis on the second word. “But I didn’t see you bagging the little princess before. I think the fact that I did gives me a few liberties.”
“We didn’t want her yet, you numpty!” The other man seethed. “We wanted the location of her brother’s faerie court first! And you weren’t authorized to use that chemical mix either. It’ll take months to build up that much of it again! Months!”
“The president said we were supposed to move in after all. Check your email,” Mr. Smiley snapped.
“I did check my email. You’re misreading the orders, and you know it!”
Sabrina tried to focus on her ex instead of the two burly men arguing over her like pit bulls with a chew toy. While Alex looked ready to attack anyone who made a move toward her, he wasn’t all that impressive in a physical sense. The men in black, on the other hand, most definitely were.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Another Scottish voice, this one much younger, shouted over everyone else. “Let her go to her room until we get this settled. Best to get her locked up safely for the time being, right?”
In the few seconds of surprised silence that followed, Sabrina was able to study the speaker through her red-rimmed eyes. George: She didn’t know how she had missed him before when she recognized him so quickly now.
It would be difficult, she thought, to forget someone who’d been at her complete mercy the way he had been, even if only for a few crazy minutes. And now positions were reversed. She wondered if she could count on any additional favors from her former captive, but couldn’t read his face well enough to tell.
His comrades started arguing again, with most of the suits managing to see the validity of the suggestion, and the mad scientists vehemently disagreeing. They made it obvious that they wanted to start experimenting on her immediately. If not sooner.
When they first walked in, Sabrina had been sure they didn’t approve of Mr. Smiley. Now it seemed that was only because he hadn’t invited them in on the fun right away. How Dr. Anderton had won that privilege over the others never came to light but, regardless, they lost out again.
That didn’t make Sabrina happy, but just because it was difficult to feel any positive emotions when she was strapped to a table like a living biology project.
When it was all said, done and decided, Mr. Smiley came over to remove her bindings with a warning glare that put a sufficiently dampening chill down her spine. He didn’t need to say a word. She understood quite well that escape was a pointless dream.
It made her hate them. Every single one of them. She hated that they were making her feel so small and unprotected. She hated them for hating her first. She hated them because her physical self was completely at their mercy, and she was terrified that her mind and soul would be quick to follow.
Alex took a protective step between her and Mr. Smiley, an act that made the latter smirk with vile amusement.
Sabrina despised him for that too: feeling so smug and superior, and thinking himself so bulletproof while he had such an extreme and unfair advantage over her.
She would show him. She swore in that moment that she would show him how very wrong that assumption of safety was. She’d kill him herself if it was the last thing she did.
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