Updated: Jun 29
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Chapter 22: Barely without thinking, Sabrina lashed out, her foot connecting with the female doctor’s stomach. With a forceful push, wires went flying. So did the woman, an impressive five yards backward into one of the security guards. Both humans landed in an undignified sprawl on the floor.
The paunchy doctor had the good sense to back off, letting the three remaining guards rush forward. Sabrina managed to rake her nails across the one’s face hard enough to leave him clutching his right eye and turning away in blinded pain. But by then, the first guy had regained his feet, making it three against one all over again.
One of her attackers locked his leg around hers to pin it to the machine in a decidedly uncomfortable fashion. A second performed the same move on her other side, while the third goon wrenched her arms behind her back, one thick hand encircling both of her more slender wrists. She clapped her wings over his face and he cried out, letting go in panic or pain. She didn’t care which.
Arms free, she struck at the man on her right, but he seemed at least marginally prepared for the attack. She only got one good blow in at him before he caught her wrist. With her focus on him, his comrade on the left secured her other hand. And the third one behind her pulled himself together again to manhandle her wings closed.
Sabrina fought against them with every bit of energy she could muster, but it wasn’t enough. She could feel them straining right back, their grasps growing sweaty as she flexed and twisted and twitched for all she was worth.
Three of the doctors approached again, this time much more cautiously. It was like she was a dangerous but exotic animal they’d just brought in.
They were scared of her, yes. Just not scared enough to stay away.
They reattached what needed to be reattached, added a few more wires and fitted the armbands she’d dreaded so much around her biceps. Despite her best efforts, it only took a few more minutes before the two men and the still-grimacing woman stepped off to the side, their task completed.
The guards didn’t let her go quite yet, keeping her restrained for the older doctor to step forward and look down at her, his eyes bright with scientific fervor. In that moment, he looked like he was high, making her want nothing more than to bring him plummeting down.
“You need to calm down,” he told her. “Do as you’re told, or you’re not going to be a very happy faerie.”
He reached forward to brush her hair out of her eyes.
She tried to bite him. She didn’t care if that meant she resembled the animal he mistook her for. She seriously doubted there was anything she could do to change his mind on that subject, and she was far beyond caring regardless. She just wanted out.
Gripping her chin with one hand that trembled with the effort of keeping her face still, he pulled out a penlight from one of his pockets and shone it in her eyes.
She automatically blinked, and then, just to be as non-cooperative as possible, shut her eyes altogether. That apparently wasn’t allowed though. Since he had both of his hands full, he called over one of his colleagues to pry first one lid open and then the other. Angry tears welled up, and she made her pupils rebel by looking in every direction but wherever she assumed he wanted her to stare.
“She really is an extraordinary creature,” he remarked in an offhand manner. “If we could just subdue her emotionally in some manner that didn’t interfere with her physical abilities.”
He trailed off, lost in thought. Since she still wasn’t capable of saying anything intelligible due to the fact that his fingers remained clamped around her jaw, she jerked her body as much as she could to show him how elusive that dream was.
“Go to the medical ward to have that eye taken care of,” he said without taking his attention off of her.
Sabrina realized the guard she’d clawed must still be behind her. That was devotion to wait there for orders, she thought bitterly, savagely wishing he would go blind. Moreover, she hoped the HPAC didn’t offer any long-term disability benefits so that he’d end up on the streets begging for a living.
The doctor let her chin go and moved away, nodding at the guards. “Put it on setting three.”
They released her, stepping back just far enough to be out of her wingspan. There was a crackling hum and then a thousand lightning bolts emitted from the cuffs, charging through her nervous system without a shred of decency. Taken by surprise by the vivid agony, Sabrina found herself screaming in no time flat.
It lasted a horrific ten seconds, and she was once again panting for breath when it stopped. Her wings flapped incessantly behind her in short, frantic motions. And every other part of her was shaking as well.
“Sabrina,” the doctor started again.
“Don’t call me that,” she managed to gasp, disgusted by the sound of her name on his lips. “You don’t have any right to call me that.”
“What should I call you then? Za?”
“Stop it!” She wailed. “Just stop it!”
“I have to say I like your given name better anyway,” he commented, completely devoid of humanity. “Now be a good girl and do as you’re told so we don’t have to punish you again.”
“Screw you!” It wasn’t the most intelligent comeback for someone who prided herself on her vocabulary.
“I’m afraid I’m married, but thanks for the offer,” he replied wryly.
Her stomach twisted at just the thought, her mind sluggishly wondering why so many impolite terms had to have sexual overtones. It was no wonder people said swearing was for the weak-minded. She should have stuck with her extensive lexis after all.
“Now put your hands on that bar,” he went on, “and start lifting.”
Still breathing heavily, she did as instructed, pausing for the sole reason of glaring her full hatred at him. “I said ‘screw you.’ I never said I would.”
And then she did as she was told. It was only a slight strain at first, and the fact that she wasn’t struggling much must have intrigued them. They began adding more weight to her load until it felt like every muscle in her arms and torso was aching. She could feel sweat dripping down her skin with each movement she made.
If she had been alone, she would have given up within seconds of starting. In fact, she never would have begun in the first place. But her captors were excellent coaches who offered fabulous perks for persistence. Not getting electrocuted again was enough to keep her going. So she kept pulling down and releasing with slow precision, pulling down and releasing again.
They didn’t make her lift the heaviest blocks, but it was plenty enough for her to deal with. Muscles on fire, she went to try for a count of one-hundred and seventy-two, and found that her arms simply wouldn’t work anymore.
Desperate, she tugged again, but it seemed that her body had decided she’d had enough. She could barely manage to move the bar down an inch, much less the full way.
Wild-eyed, she looked at the doctors. “I can’t.”
“Try,” was the merciless response.
“No. I mean it. I really can’t!”
Sabrina searched her uncooperative brain for the right words to make them understand. But they seemed to believe in a three-strikes rule.
She saw the main doctor nod at one of his assistants, watched that man’s fingers curl around the dial and heard the hum of electricity flowing. Then she felt the crackling intensity of it make contact with her skin.
They only kept it on for two seconds, but that was more than enough to remind her why she wanted so desperately to do a few more reps.
As soon as she could muster up control over her body again, she tried to obey. Her spirit was very willing. Yet she’d tapped out all of her physical strength already, leaving no room for mind over matter.
Matter didn’t budge.
Another burst of pain rewarded her for her second failed attempt. She expected it, so she didn’t scream that time. Her body arched in agony, and something close to a squeak escaped her clamped lips. But that was it. She didn’t scream.
It took longer to recover that time. Yet as soon as she had, she did her best to comply with their heartless demands. She really did. Even so, the bar didn’t budge more than a centimeter.
Sabrina braced herself for the next wave of torture that never came. Instead, she was given a warning not to act up. They made her verbally agree – twice – before the female doctor approached to cautiously remove the medical tape and wires.
Sabrina let herself slump. It wasn’t with relief. She wanted to die. Or sleep. Or maybe sleep and then die.
With the three remaining guards still pointing their nasty weapons at her, she submitted to a checkup by yet another of the scientific team. This one didn’t look much older than her. His mathematician’s haircut, soft brown eyes and average height all accentuated that impression.
Watching him test out her reflexes and study her visual reactions and record her vitals, some part of her realized how shell-shocked he looked. Sabrina refused to feel bad for him, however, when her body felt like it was never going to function properly again. Besides, he had a choice to get up and walk away from the situation.
She, on the other hand, did not.
“How’re the arms?” He asked in a soft Scottish accent, gently prodding the muscles just below her shoulder.
Despite her automatic antipathy, the compassion in his voice made her lower lip tremble. And when she answered, she couldn’t manage an angry edge. “Not good.”
“I’m sure.” He did his best to give her a sympathetic smile despite the horror he radiated. “But you did an amazing job.”
Without thinking, she tried to return the smile. She was pretty sure she failed even worse than he did, a thought that was proven further when a tear dripped down her face. No more followed, but that was likely because she’d sweat out every other drop of liquid in her body.
“This should be the last of the physical activities for today,” he informed her. “I can give you a therapeutic massage if you’d like.”
Nerves already overloaded, she must have blanched because he blushed a bright red.
“I didn’t mean… I mean, I meant… I wasn’t saying…”
“I believe our Sabrina here is charming the young Dr. McCullough,” his older colleague spoke up with grim amusement. “Best to watch out for her, my boy. She’s a lovely sight, I know, but don’t forget she’s a siren who can crash your ship on the rocks. The females are all the more dangerous than their mates.”
Sabrina wasn’t sure which statement she found more insulting: having her name preceded by the possessive “our” or being compared to such mindlessly destructive creatures as sirens.
“Dr. Morrison,” the younger man asserted. “I can assure you –”
“I’m sure you can try,” the wretch interrupted. “But female faeries and their hypnotic powers have lured men older and more experienced than you into making grievous errors. Take care.”
“I intend to, sir,” Dr. McCullough replied in tones that rather indicated he felt affronted by the warning. “But you’re more than welcome to observe me if you doubt my abilities.”
“It isn’t your abilities I doubt. It’s only that I believe we’ve seen the slightest bit of what she’s capable of, and I don’t want to see you harmed just to prove me right.”
“Thank you, sir. But I stand by the belief that she isn’t going to be able to function tomorrow unless properly taken care of.” He blushed again.
“Of course. I’ll have a full guard accompany you.” Morrison turned to one of the other scientists. “Go get a fourth guard.”
Looking quite disappointed to be sent away, the man nevertheless left. Sabrina listlessly watched him go, knowing that the odds against her had just dropped by one. She also knew they still slanted grossly against her and that Dr. McCullough was right in his assessment. She wasn’t even close to being at full strength. Even so, some part of her that wasn’t broken itched to try taking them all on.
As it turned out, it was just as well she didn’t bother. After the errand boy returned with the fourth guard and they released her from her restraints, she couldn’t even stand up. They had to find a wheelchair to push her to the shower room, where she ended up washing herself by sitting on a special seat in the handicap stall.
They left her alone for that, though there was a lot of disapproving grumbles at the notion. They worried that she might get out. Or work her faerie magic to turn into water and escape down the drain. Or worse, she might blow them all up.
Sabrina found herself wishing she could somehow live up to their ridiculous fears.
It was Dr. Morrison who finally ended the discussion by pointing out how exhausted she was. Between that and with guards at the door, he assured, she should be no threat at all. And if she did decide to be problematic, he added, there were ways they could deal with her.
Now toweling off, she changed into the clothes they’d left her: a black t-shirt and pants set that fit as snugly as the sports bra and shorts had before. It appeared that, weakened or not, they didn’t trust her not to hide sharp objects on herself.
It hurt to get dressed, and when she had accomplished that much, it was another challenge to stand in front of the mirror. Grimacing, she turned to check her derriere, which jutted out prominently in the getup. For that reason alone, she supposed she should be grateful that they’d temporarily paralyzed her enough to warrant a wheelchair.
Taking the seat again, she thanked heaven for small miracles.
Upon opening the door, Sabrina was greeted with four very hostile stares. It appeared that the scientists were done with her for the time being, since just the security guards remained. They didn’t say anything when she rolled out, only glared at her coldly. One of their faces featured angry bruises, leaving her to guess that he was the one she’d used her wings on.
The journey to her next destination was stony quiet and therefore uncomfortable. Nor did it get better right away, despite the recognition that she was in the kindly Dr. McCullough’s rooms, judging by the chiropractic kit. She didn’t want the guard’s assistance in moving from the wheelchair to the massage table. But they didn’t give her a choice, picking her up and dropping her down with little regard to her feelings on the subject.
Dr. McCullough appeared then, blushing yet again. If he weren’t the enemy, she might have found him a little endearing.
“Could you move onto your stomach, Sabrina?”
It sounded like a genuine request and not an order. She obeyed anyway, despite how each movement added to her list of aches. But when he started working the knots in her shoulders and upper back, kneading above and between her wings and then running his thumbs down her spine, she succumbed to the relaxing strokes and let herself droop against the table.
He didn’t say anything while he slid his hands up her neck and just behind her ears. The resulting effects were almost good enough to make her forget that there were still four angry guards in the room who most assuredly wanted to rip her limbs off.
The massage lasted quite a while, but she wouldn’t have minded it lasting even longer. Her body still hurt when he was done and her mind snapped directly back to high alert. She wasn’t ready to endure another one of their experiments anytime soon. However, she did feel like she just might be able to walk again on her own.
“How are you feeling now?” The doctor asked her, looking both pleased and concerned at the same time.
“I think I might be able to twitch a finger,” she replied cautiously, making sure to look only at him. “Thanks.”
He patted her leg. “I’m glad that helped. I’ll see how you feel after tomorrow too.”
Sabrina knew her face fell at the thought of more physical tests.
His eyes went sad with sympathy, but he didn’t offer any comforting words when there were none to give. “Can you sit up so I can check your vitals again?”
She let him, and she let him test her reflexes too. But when he asked her to stand up, she made sure to wobble a bit more than necessary.
If McCullough suspected anything, he didn’t let on, so she figured that her delicate female act had him fooled. Probably not the guards, but they weren’t the senior personnel in the room; so they couldn’t do much more than glare their opinions when he told them to transfer her back to the wheelchair.
Sabrina realized her mistake as soon as she figured out they were taking her back to Dr. Stewart. If she had just walked, she could have prolonged the experience at least a little. Instead, she found herself back in the evil shrink’s presence in an uncomfortably short span of time, doing her best to mentally prepare for whatever he had in store for her this time.
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