MoboReader> Adventure > Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required

   Chapter 30

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 16890

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Angelos.

The man sets his elbow on my shoulder and hands me a glass coke bottle. I wiggle the cap, the face of it dented and the corners stretched out. When I touch it, it pops off. I feel a tremble. It“s been jimmied open. Probably spiked.

Well, great. I could“ve used a Coke. I hold the bottle at my side and try to smile politely, but it doesn“t come. I“m scowling at him as he guides me through the back of his store, my good eye searching for something to focus on. The room is small and crumbly, built of cinder block and pasted in globs of gray paint. With what little I can see in the dark, I find a flashing red exit sign. I race toward it. The man tugs on my shirt to keep me from splitting.

"Easy," he says, "tell me about yourself."

I level my breathing as he leads me out a door and rush out my words. "Sixteen. Big Star Wars fan. Wanna get a doctorate in medicine." My biological parents are supervillains and Syndicate kidnapped my best friend. "How about you?"

He chuckles. A single bar of fluorescent light hums above my head as I push the door open, a spiral of stairs plunging just below my feet. The place smells damp and musty, like an antique shop if said antique shop had been doused in acid rain. The floor creaks under my feet, sending my thoughts back to Death Tower. I shake my head. It“s still crazy to think that night led to all this, still blows my mind in every possible way and angle.

The man takes a swig of his Coke. My fingers clench around mine. "I“m just a stranger." He glances at me from the corner of his eye and drops his voice. His tone is deep and menacing. "How about I ask the questions?"

I feel myself stiffen, but I try to stay polite. "Fine by me."

Silence falls between us, only pierced by the creeeaaak of each stair as we walk down the flight. I try to match the man“s careful, measured steps. If I died here, falling down the stairs, that would be the dumbest death in the history of dumb deaths after all I“ve been through. But I wouldn“t be surprised if I somehow did. Fate does seem to want me dead, after all.

"A doctorate?" the man asks finally.

I shrug. "I want to be a doctor. I mean, I might take biochem, and if I do, I want to get a doctorate in that, so I can still be a doctor. Plus, education is neat."

"You“re into science?"

"Yeah, a little." And for a second, I crack a smile, though it feels wrong to do when Gats is gone. I do like science, even if this genetics stuff leaves me with a bad flavor in my mouth. I haven“t had time to think about it at all, my life in the state it is, but I used to love looking at the stars. I had a giant telescope perched outside on the balcony before Gats convinced me it was lame. Maybe I“ll take up an astronomy course. I still have so many options and such a long life ahead of me, at least, I did before the dumb supervillain element entered my life. I feel a twinge in my chest. Maybe I won“t have to choose between biochem, astronomy, or medicine because I“ll never go to college. Maybe I won“t escape this place. Maybe I“ll never grow up.

I bite the inside of my cheek. I never wanted this, I—

"Kid!" the man shouts, a fraction of a second too late. My foot misses the next step. I take a tumble. My head hits the edge of a stair, sending a jolt through my skull. I gasp and my wings tear free and snap open. They jerk up, pulling me back before I hit another step. My heart nearly bursts through my rib cage. The man pounds down and snatches my collar. "Look where you“re going next time!" He slaps me, a burst of black and purple spiraling behind my good eye. I rub the side of my head and let the sting of the slap sink.

"Sorry," I say.

"Do you want to get yourself killed?"

"It won“t happen again." I feel myself blush. Maybe I haven“t grown up all that much because even with everything“s that“s happened, I“m still the same darn rebellious kid the grown-ups yell at.

He tugs me further, his elbow resting softly on my wing. I wince, the veins there nearly crushed. So many stairs. I wonder if this place has an elevator.

"Where are we goi—"

"I thought I asked the questions."

"Sir." I take in a sour breath. "I have no idea who you are, where I am, or how I got here. Except I kind of know the last part. I was brought here tied up on the floor of a car. No disrespect intended, but please, I need some kind of information."

He laughs softly. "Not my specialty. We don“t talk very much here."

I glower at my socks, still shaky and gasping for breath. My wings fold neatly behind my back, sandwiching my loaned shirt to my shoulders. "At least tell me where I am." There“s another second of silence. He shoves me down the last step, toward another humming exit sign. I whip around and slam my back against the door. "I won“t move until you do." Negotiation: just another skill I need some work on.

A long pause. A smile. "We call this place, well, we don“t call this place anything. Just an abandoned mall. Between the superheroes in Starlight and the police down in Newport,

ht, and in every true fight I“ve been in, the moment I hit the ground I“m a shoe-in for second place. This is a losing fight.

Poison points at me, chuckles. His bright blue eyes gleam with a wicked light. He looks feral.

The wolf nudges me again. I pat her ear and she shies back. "It“s funny." He cocks his head. "The harder and faster you fly away from me, the sooner you end up back in my hand. You“re like a boomerang."

The words take a few moments to register, and when they do, I huff. Not only is he right, but his metaphors are better mine. "What do you want?" My fists curl, fingers brushing up against the Coke bottle. I am a boomerang, I think, and I“ll keep ending up back in his hand until I break the cycle.

I need my powers. I need to control my telekinesis, but I don“t want to play with it here, with all these animals near that could get hurt if I bring the ceiling crashing down. The wolf whines. Poison“s heeled boots make little clicks on the floor. "I want you to stay put," he says coolly. "Just stay put." He holds a cord taut between his hands. "And I won“t hurt you again. We“ll pretend this whole escapade never happened."

I rise. "Where“s Ceres?"

I think I see a flash of a frown. "Taken care of," he answers cryptically. Ceres. His one friend. He shakes his head and strides toward me, briskly. Run, run, run... screams every muscle, every thought in my head.

But I stand my ground. Maybe it“s the broken part of me, the dark side. But I have to face him. I“ll leave here walking with information. He won“t make me run. I“m tired of running. "I“m giving you a chance to leave, brother." Brother. It feels strange to say. I used to call Gats my brother to make him squirm at all the sugar-sweet sentimentality, but this is different. Poison“s supposed to be my big brother, and he hates me. Wishes I was dead, I“m sure. I point back to the wolf and return to a crouch. "And I“m taking her home, by the way. Does she have a name? And not a project name, just a name-name."

His fists shake. "It“s a project. It doesn“t have a name. It“s just a dumb experiment."

My fingers find the cage“s latch. "I“m calling her Kepler then, like Johannes Kepler." I glance back at him, letting him know I registered the insult and that I don“t care. Our eyes meet, his brilliant blue and flashing, mine probably as dull and unreadable as a single black eye can get. "If you want to fight me, fight me, but Kepler and I are going home." I have no idea how Juniper and Storm will react to me stealing a wolf nor do I know how to take care of one, but those thoughts can wait.

The door squeaks open. Kepler looks up to me, expectantly, her head at a tilt. Her yellow eyes almost glow. She“s kind of skinny. "Hey, Kepler, hey. You don“t like Quarter Pounders by any chance?"

Her tail wags. I grin. From the corner of my eye, Poison lunges. I barely see him in time. He approaches on my right, my blind side. Dirty fighter. "You“re just a project." His voice quakes. "A toy. You aren“t my brother and you aren“t my father“s son. This is where you belong." He motions toward the cage as he swings. I duck the blow. My jaw clenches, and here, the last of my patience snaps. I may be an experiment, but I“m human. I“m not meant to be locked up and I won“t let him do so to me.

I pat the side of Kepler“s snout and lunge for Poison“s neck.

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