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   Chapter 4 NO.4

The Rouges By Alzek16 Characters: 19639

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:37


DEATH WAS NOT as I had expected it to be. I thought I would drift away, become nothing, and finally get the rest I never had in my damned existence called a life. Instead it smelled funny, like chemicals. And as time pressed on, awareness of my body came back to me. There was no pain, no sight, no sounds. I just felt like a useless body drifting in a sea of nothingness.

I hated it.

When my hearing began to return, I was actually pleased to realize I wasn't dead. The shock of that realization surprised me. For so long I thought about death and now that I was so close it, I was actually relieved I had eluded it. How strange...

At first there was just a ringing sound. Then, as the ringing slowly faded, voices started to emerge from the silence. I couldn't understand them at first, but eventually the murmurs started to sound like words. There was one voice I seemed to hear the most. It spoke frequently, in long intervals, its deep rumblings oddly comforting. While the words were often fuzzy, it took me a while to realize he was reading to me.

I drifted from consciousness, my dreams and reality melding together. Time was lost to me. My body refused to respond and my sight was yet to return. I felt no pain, but I also felt no sense of being. I began to pray for those moments when the heavy voice would read to me and allow me to escape my own mind.

Then one day, the light in my eyes flickered on. Like my hearing, my vision trickled back slowly, first seeing lights, then colors, then finally making out tiles and shoes. I was lying on my stomach, my face planted in some kind of open support. I slowly began to match shoes with voices.

The day my toes and fingers started tingling with feeling again, a new pair of beige linen shoes stepped into my line of sight.

"I know that you can hear me and I am going to keep this brief." The female's voice was monotone, bordering on cold. "Your body has been kept in a state of suspended animation to allow for maximum regeneration. Soon, you should be regaining feeling in your extremities, if you're not already. As a courtesy, you should know you are currently under armed guard. So I suggest remaining calm and peaceful when you completely awaken."

The shoes disappeared from sight and my ears became keenly aware of two different sets of breath somewhere nearby.

My mind raced, looking for an answer as to where I was. For reasons unknown to me, my captors had not only prolonged my life, but saved it. I was not with the Ravagers, that was certain. There was a possibility I could be with the intellectual Adroits, but Tribes generally never cared about the lives outside of their own circles.

I thought of the young girl I had pushed to safety. She had reached the ledge, of that much I was sure. I could remember the feeling of her tiny legs wiggling upward from my grasp. Beyond that though, her fate was unknown to me.

I hoped the utter stupidity of my sacrifice hadn't been for nothing.

In all honesty, I couldn't say what made me go to her. Or what made me break all of my rules and stick my neck out for another human being. It was a stupid and self-destructive action. But there was no use in regretting it now. I chose my path, executed my actions and now there were consequences to be dealt with. Dwelling in the past would get me nowhere; instead I needed to focus on the situation at hand. Now that I wasn't dead, surviving was once again the key game.

The curt woman had been right. Feeling slowly began to seep back into my body. As I cautiously flexed my tingling fingers, the sound of hands readjusting on triggers answered me. There was a beep and a voice nearby spoke.

"She's moving."

There was no response, no movement within the room, but the tension in the air was palpable. Moving with great care I lifted my hands holding my palms up as a sign of amenability. When no one shot, I placed them beneath my chest and pushed myself upwards just enough to raise my head.

I blinked at the room, finding it dingier than I had expected. The lights glowing above me gave off a familiar green hue. Instead of finding sterile white tile on the walls as I had expected, they were concrete. Large cabinets layered them, covering most of the space. There were no windows.

I swallowed.

One of the guards moved, catching my attention. He was wearing dull-colored clothing and looked nothing like any of the Tribesman I had ever seen. His blonde hair was long, pulled back in a ponytail. His hand reflexively tightened on his gun as I looked at him. He watched me warily, as if I would suddenly fly off the table and attack at any moment. Someone else in the room moved and I turned to see another soldier pushing back a tall, thin man with glasses. I was surprised when he glared at the guard.

"Don't be foolish Doc." The dark-haired soldier spat at the tall man.

"Don't be such a brute and learn some compassion. She's a human being, not a rabid animal." With a force I was surprised such a lanky man could possess, he shouldered the guard out of the way. In his hands was a pile of clothing.

Looking down, I immediately lowered myself further on the table and pulled my arms around my bare chest.

The so-called doctor laid the clothing next to me and pulled up a sheet to shield my body from the guards. Just looking at the pile I knew the clothing would be too big, but that was the least of my problems. While hastily pulling on the faded grey shirt and black linen pants, I glared at the dark haired man with the gun.

His returning gaze made my skin crawl.

Once my body was covered, the doctor dropped the cloth and stepped back. He looked young, younger than I would have envisioned a doctor being. Fidgeting under my steady gaze, he removed his glasses, wiping them on his shirt as he cleared his throat.

"My n-name is Porters. I'm the resident doctor and have been tending to your injuries. If it is alright with you I would like to touch you to take your vitals." His hands twisted nervously.

The black-haired guard's finger pressed over his trigger, but he did not yet point the barrel at me. The blonde guard's gaze flickered to his colleague, looking for guidance.

They were afraid of me.

I tried not to smile as the thought crossed my mind. Although I was unarmed and half their size, I sparked fear in these men. Even the leering guard in the corner showed a hint of fear behind his imperious eyes.

I nodded once at the man named Porters.

He moved slowly, touching his fingertips to my wrists, flashing a light in my eyes and feeling my neck and shoulder. I was careful to keep my eyes on his face, but my focus was actually on the dark-haired guard. His black eyes were focused intently on me.

Trusting your instincts in Tartarus could save your life and that man made my scalp prickle. He would prove to be an adversary. I could feel it in my bones.

Porters stepped away from me looking pleased. "Everything looks good. Your back has healed nicely, your heart rate is strong and your retinas have reattached perfectly."

I nodded my head again, acknowledging the information. I remembered the hum as the heat-seeking gun charged, the fire as the bullet pierced my skin. Then there was an explosion. I couldn't remember what had caused it though, just the blinding light and force as it blew me backwards.

Before he could utter another word the doors opened and a woman walked in flanked by two other armed men. She had stark white hair that was pulled back into a severe bun. The grey suit that loosely fitted her lean body only accented her pale features further. Her face was long and thin with a sharply pointed chin. Despite the color of her hair, her face was relatively un-aged. There were two faint lines at the corners of her eyes hinting at passed years, but I would have guessed she was probably in her forties. Close to what my own parents would now be if they were still alive. Her brilliant honey-toned eyes fell immediately upon me, but there was no look of maternal instinct or pity in them. I doubted this woman would prove to be an ally.

Her shoes caught my attention. They were the same beige pair I had seen not long ago. This was the cool-voiced woman. Confirming my observations, she began to speak.

"You are currently being held within the confines of my walls, against my better judgment. I will not waste my time on you, so you will answer my questions and you will be honest. If I believe you are deceiving me, I will have you shot on the spot. Do you understand?" Her tone was clipped.

I nodded, refusing to speak.

"Good." Her eyes narrowed. "What is your name?"

I didn't respond at first, narrowing my eyes. Immediately four guns pointed at my heart.

"Lyra." I said, my voice sounding surprisingly strong.

She raised her hand and the guns lowered in response.

"What Tribe are you from?" She scrutinized my every movement.

"I don't claim allegiance to any Tribe."

"Fine, then what Tribe were you born to?"

"I wasn't born to any Tribe." The thought disgusted me. "I was born in The Sanctuary."

Her eyes tighten as she considered me.

"Take her to the cells." And with those last words she disappeared back through the doors.

Fury flared within me. I had answered all her stupid questions and now she was throwing me in a cage? I hadn't even gotten answers in return.

The sullen guard grabbed my arm and yanked me from the table. I stumbled against him, my legs weak from lack of use. Gathering myself, I pulled away, but his grip held tight. The cruel smile on his lips grew as he towered over me.

Porters laid a hand on him, his tone tense. "Go easy on her Maddox, she is not completely done healing yet."

Maddox snarled at the doctor. "Mind your business

Doc. You healed her enough, now it is time to do my job."

I noticed how the doctor's eyes flickered from mine to Maddox's. Releasing the brute's shoulder, he stepped back and squared himself, drawing himself up to full height.

"It is your job to guard, but it is mine to protect. If anything happens to my patient under your watch, it will be your head I will come for." His face softened as he turned to me. "You need to drink a lot of fluids over the next few days. I will come and check on you regularly." His eyes darted to Maddox's on the last word.

The grip on my right arm eased slightly, but his pressure remained firm. Without another word to the doctor, Maddox dragged me from the room. The other guard appeared at my other shoulder as we moved through the door, but unlike his counterpart, he did not touch me.

They moved me at a quick pace, my usually agile feet stumbling to keep up. The walls here were also concrete, showing no sign of weakness or escape. Every twenty feet or so the tunnels would split off creating new paths, but the receding hallways all looked the same to me. Naturally, my eyes darted around for any possibility of evasion or improvised weapons, but the hall yielded nothing. The smooth walls were clean and seamless. Every hallway was empty as we moved. I saw not a single other person.

My chances of escape were growing thinner.

We turned left and arrived at a completely open doorway with a panel next to it. The ponytailed guard pressed his palm to it. When the responding beep sounded, I was thrown unceremoniously inside. Maddox laughed pitilessly as I fell, sliding across the hard floor.

"Sweet dreams." He crooned winking at me.

It took every bit of self-control I had not to throw myself at him and begin clawing at his face.

The door beeped again and they left me unguarded. I stared at the open doorway shocked.

It couldn't be this easy.

Climbing to my feet I moved towards the door. I could see clearly into the hallway.

It was empty.

Stretching out my hand, I reached towards the door, then jumped.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

The voice came from the dark corner of the room. A boy about my age emerged from the shadows. He was thin, with jet-black hair that was cut closely to his head. Beneath his maroon shirt, tattoos covered his pale skin. I swallowed thickly as his brown eyes watched me.

He was a Taciturn.

Even had he not been wearing the color of his tribe—which he so obviously was— the tattoos were a dead giveaway. The Taciturns literally wore their pride on their skin. Their tattoos told of their past kills, personal triumphs or private vendettas. While the boy did not bear many markings, the ink was still prominent against his fair skin.

I glared at the thin boy and reached my fingers out further. Hell would freeze over before I would willingly stay in a room alone with a Tribesman.

The air crackled as my fingertips grew nearer to the doorframe. Before I could think to pull my hand away, sparks flew from my fingers and I was blown backwards. Everything faded to black before I even hit ground.

When I came to, I was lying on my back looking up into the face of the Taciturn boy. He smiled knowingly at me.

"I told you not to do that." His smile erupted into a full-blown grin as he offered me a hand. Glaring at his open fingers I rose, refusing his aid. He just shrugged and walked to an open cot on the other side of the room.

"Be thankful you only touched it with your fingertip. I pressed my whole palm to it. Came around three hours later and damn near soiled myself." He flung himself down on the cot and began picking at his cuticles.

Looking down at my own fingers, an angry burn was blossoming on my index finger. My brow furrowed. I turned my hand twice, staring at my nails. They were long, protruding grotesquely over my fingertips.

How long had I been unconscious?

I checked my other hand and then my arms before grabbing for my hair. Uncharacteristically it was pulled back. I pulled the tie holding it back and the greasy locks fell to below my shoulders. I gaped at the long blonde hair. I had always kept it short, cut blunt with my knife. The few times I ever caught my reflection I knew I looked too much like my mother. She was a beautiful woman, but in Tartarus beauty was a dangerous thing. It made you a lusted object, a target. It was a weakness and I hated it. Keeping it cropped short in a disheveled manner helped hide that attribute. I pulled at the hair, wishing it gone.

"Don't worry, you were only out for four days." A young man stood in the doorway watching me. His voice was oddly familiar.

He wore dark pants like the pair I had been given and a patched grey shirt that was frayed at the edges. There were no distinguishable Tribe markers on him. In his hands was a tray of food. Just as the guard had, he pressed his hand to the panel, waited for the beep then walked through the doorway. My new roommate bounded toward him, snagging a steaming bowl and chunk of something brown.

"About time, I was starving in here." He muttered, stuffing the chunk in his mouth.

The newcomer set the tray on what I assumed was to be my bed. I was surprised when he actually turned his back to me to do so.

Rule number one: trust no one.

Rule number two: never turn your back to someone. (See rule number one.)

I watched him with cautious eyes as he turned back to me. His face was startlingly gentle as he looked at me. His features were sharp, but those eyes were... There was something in those hazel eyes I barely recognized. Something I hadn't seen in a long time. Kindness?

"The regenerating serum does that." He gestured to my hair and nails. "It enhances cell growth. Doc Porters is fascinated by it, he used it to heal your back. One of the side effects, however, is that your other more influential cells, like hair and nails, grow at an accelerated rate as well."

I stared at him, unable to find anything to say.

"I will be back for the dishes later. The water is for you. Doc Porters said you needed to keep hydrated." Looking me over one more time he turned to leave. As he pressed his hand to the panel I found my words.

"Thank you."

He stopped in the doorway, but did not turn around. "You're welcome."

I watched as he disappeared around the corner.

"So she speaks." My cellmate eyed me over his soup bowl.

"Aren't Taciturns supposed to be the strong silent type?" I let a little venom slide into my words as I moved to inspect the food left for me.

"Not all of us fit the molds we were born into." His gaze hardened.

I cautiously sniffed the soup, my stomach awakening in response. It smelled delicious and there was steam rising from its surface. I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten something hot. Reason told me my captors would not waste their time rescuing me, just to poison my food. But I still struggled with the idea of eating something I had not prepared.

"If you're not going to eat that I will." The Taciturn boy called.

I wanted the will power to give him my food and see if it killed him, but I was too hungry. Instead I compromised, tossing him the brown chunk I supposed was bread and sipped at my soup.

He caught the bread with ease and stuffed it into his mouth. "Cheers."

I watched him as I finished my bowl and then drained my water glass.

"So why are you here, Taciturn?" We watched each other cautiously from our respective cots.

"I left my Tribe due to... artistic differences. As I'm sure you know, leaving a Tribe isn't the easiest thing. I was jumped by my own and left for the Scavengers to feed on. Three days later I woke up here." He gestured to the room around us.

"And where exactly is here, Taciturn?" I began biting my nails back down to a reasonable length.

"No idea. Unfortunately our captors are better with the questions than the answers." He shoved another hunk of bread in his mouth. "It's Arden by the way, I despise being referred to as Taciturn."

I wondered if that was his real name. Regardless, this forsaken Tribesman may prove to be a good source of information if not an ally. And right now I needed as many allies as I could get.

"Lyra." I offered as a sign of camaraderie.

He smiled around the hunk of food in his mouth, taking my bait. Before I could ask any more questions the room was cast into darkness as the light went out. I jumped to my feet ready for an attack. I could see Arden's eyes glinting in the darkness.

"Easy Lyra, it's just lights out. They'll rudely wake us in the morning with them again when they want us up. No point wasting a good night's sleep." The springs of his cot squeaked as he settled in for the night. "I am a light sleeper though, so don't try anything stupid."

With his warning still ripe in my ears he rolled over and almost instantly began snoring. I had never before slept in the same room as another person and his presence left me feeling twitchy in the dark. Worse than knowing someone else was in the room with me was knowing there was a door I could not pass through but anyone else could easily walk in. My mind instantly thought of the dark-haired guard, Maddox, and his overtly roaming eyes.

I curled up in the middle of my cot and pulled my knees to my chest. Rigidly, I pressed my back against the concrete wall and braced myself for a long night. From my vantage point I could see both the doorway and Arden's slumbering form.

If anyone was coming for me tonight, I would know.

****

HEYYYYYO!!

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P.S: The Rouges is #836 (5/21/2017) after just two days of its release!!!!

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