This was probably the first time I’d driven a car with someone else in it that was also eligible to drive. I hated acting like someone’s chauffeur, especially when that someone was a mere sixteen year old girl. As I pulled into the parking lot behind City Hall, Rosalie suddenly spoke up, “Why are we here?”
I sighed as I yanked the keys out of the car, “I told you, Justice wants to see you.” I got out of the car to avoid any more questions. As soon as Rosalie followed me out and started heading toward the building with me, I became aware of how scrawny she looked. I couldn’t remember exactly how many days had passed since the Destruction, and using Saper’s “feeding days” to keep track of the weeks didn’t really do me any good- I was one of the select Council members who got food on a regular basis. It had never occurred to me to sneak food out to the peasants of the town, but even now that I did, I knew I would never act upon it.
The senor beeped in recognition as I waved my fake ID card over it and the sound of the back door unlocking resonated in the air for less than a second. I walked in briskly, not bothering to hold the door open for the young girl. Without turning back, I could hear a faint grunt of frustration as the heavy door came swinging back at Rosalie’s face. Assuming she had caught the door just in time with her hands, I continued to walk down the drab hallway until I came to an office door. It was then that I turned around to see Rosalie, her face more than a little disgruntled, coming to meet me at the door. Wordlessly, I opened it and let myself go through first.
From the outside, it would look like just any regulated office. But, a cliché was recently discovered in the room- a sliding panel hidden behind a bookshelf that we had found carelessly tossed aside. I walked over to that panel now and placed my hands on it horizontally, gripping the tiniest dips in the wallpaper, and pulling to my left. The wall slid open to reveal a dusty wooden stair case and a rusted metal light switch. I turned back around to face Rosalie, who stared at the stairs suspiciously.
“After you,” I said dryly as I gestured ungracefully toward the opening in the wall.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Rosalie replied, “There’s no way I’m going down there! Just tell me what’s going on.”
“Look, I don’t have time for this,” I took a step toward Rosalie and half pulled, half shoved her into the stairwell. She whipped around to face me with her arms outstretched. A cold pain hit my face as a heavy sheet of ice covered my left cheek. “Get it off!” I yelled through gritted teeth, enraged that anyone had dared defy me. Grabbing Rosalie by her dress’s collar, I yanked her forward slightly before slamming her into the stairwell’s brick wall. The ice on my face instantly melted and dripped onto my coat. I let go of Rosalie and took a step back. I noticed in satisfaction that she was shaking. Her head had connected hard with the wall, motivating her to reach a trembling hand to feel the back of her bruised skull. “Let’s go!” I pushed her in the direction of the stairs, not hard enough for her to go tumbling down, but enough for her to get the message.
I figured I had already done too much to her- the instructions (I hated that I’d been given orders, but it was for a greater cause) were to bring her back here unharmed or- if need be- slightly harmed. I didn’t think I’d given her a concussion, but I didn’t need her tumbling down a flight of stairs to guarantee one. I flipped on the light switch and the bulb overhead flickered on lazily. We made our way down slowly, much to my irritation. Rosalie’s mind must’ve been swimming at the moment, but she’d get over it. Once we reached the ground and I had started to walk down the hallway, I soon realized that Rosalie wasn’t following me. Turning around, I saw her standing there, head down, arms dangling limply. Come to think of it, she looked like a pink haired version of Samara from The Ring, only not as dirty.
I rolled my eyes, took hold of her dress sleeve, and began dragging her down the hall. By the time we’d reached the desired room, Rosalie had begun to regain a little more life. Her head was up and her limbs didn’t hang as loosely. I opened the door to reveal the room that Walker had brought me down to when he cut off the limb from the zombie he’d once captured. Walker was there now, in fact, with Brandi and a red haired man I didn’t recognize. “Come on,” I ordered, and Rosalie obeyed, following me to the operating table. Once she had gotten to the table and the bright light hit her face, she seemed to wake up.
“What is going on?” she demanded, her original vigor starting to come back. “Where’s Justice?” Walker quickly exchanged glances with the red haired man before returning his attention to Rosalie.
“Justice had a more pressing matter to attend to,” Walker replied smoothly, “So I volunteered to talk to you.” I smirked, knowing he had hit a nerve. Saying that someone actually had to “volunteer” to talk to you wasn’t exactly flattering.
“What is this about, anyway?” Rosalie asked, getting tenser. I glanced down at her fists, which were now clenched around the side of the table she was now sitting on. A light blue hue was beginning to form around the sides, but fortunately, her powers wouldn’t exactly do anything to help her now.
“Calm down, Rosalie,” Walker said in a voice that almost sounded genuine. “We just have one simple question.”
“Yeah?” Rosalie asked hesitantly.
“How would you like to join the Council?” More like work under it, I thought sardonically as Walker made his offer. It was clear that his question had caught Rosalie completely off guard, but she quickly composed herself.
“Um…why?” I shook my head in mock disappointment at Rosalie’s response. I knew what Walker’s true intentions were and, honestly, I thought he was executing this plan very poorly. First of all, he should’ve targeted a mutant that was equally as powerful, but more likely to work with us. I’d thought that was the whole point of reviving Dragomir, who I now recognized as the man standing next to Brandi. Flameheart had been a candidate for this plan too, but God knows why Walker decided to go with Rosalie. Secondly, I thought he was being anything but discrete. This was just the beginning of the conversation, but already I could tell that he was going to say something he’d regret later.
“We need a…a powerful mutant on our side,” Walker explained, “Someone with strength, eagerness, and courage!” That was his second mistake: saying that we needed someone powerful on “our side”. The citizens should all be assuming at this point that we were all on the same side and that there was no real dividing line between anyone. His first mistake was abducting Rosalie and taking her to a shady basement where he operated on corpses instead of taking her into an above ground office where people would normally discuss business.
Despite his rather ridiculous sales pitch, I could Rosalie beginning to get sucked into the idea. “So am I just…on the Council now?” she asked. I watched Walker closely, waiting for him to slip up.
He smiled and cocked his head to one side before replying, “Well, you wouldn’t be on the Council, per say. You’d be working for us.”
“What would I be doing?” Rosalie asked, continuing her tedious string of questions.
Walker shrugged nonchalantly, “Nothing at the moment,” he replied, “But just in case there was something we needed your help with. An uprising, for example.” I felt like hitting Walker over the head then and there, but a few things kept me from doing it. Seeing Rosalie’s cocked eyebrows, Walker quickly added, “That’s just a farfetched example, don’t worry. After all, there’s not really anything in this city that would make people would want to rise against each other. But say the water levels started increasing and the town started flooding. We’d need someone to freeze the water to prevent people from drowning.”
“I’d do that anyway,” Rosalie replied snarkily.
“And that leads us to the next thing I wanted to bring up,” Walker took his attention away from the girl and started rummaging on his desk. I couldn’t help but feel a bit impressed and relieved at how Walker had dodged a bullet there- avoiding a long argument over Rosalie’s obvious heroic nature and instead moving on to the more important matter of this meeting.
I knew it was coming, but I couldn’t refrain from wincing nonetheless when Walker turned back around to face us with a rather large syringe in his hand. Rosalie’s body instantly tensed up and for once I couldn’t blame her. “We’re going to need to know where you are at all times,” Walker explained, flicking the tube of purple fluid.
“Why?” Rosalie asked for the hundredth time that day.
“Safety precautions,” Walker replied matter-o-factly. “This will let us know where you are, just in case there’s a situation that occurs that requires your presence.” He waved the syringe in the air to emphasize his argument.
“How will it do that?” Rosalie asked as she subconsciously rubbed her arm. I thought it was cute how she assumed that the needle would be stuck there.
“You’ll see.” Walker replied. More like you won’t see, I thought to myself. The radon that was in that syringe, mixed with the various other liquids that had been injected, would certainly affect Rosalie, but it wouldn’t do anything to help us find her. “Are you ready?” the man asked as he took a step toward the young girl.
“Yeah, I guess I am,” Rosalie replied softly, holding out her arm.
Walker smiled sympathetically and motioned for her to put down her arm. “I’m sorry, Rosalie, but we’re not injecting your arm.”
“Then where’s the needle going?” she asked, a little unnerved. Walker silently motioned for Dragomir and Brandi to come behind Rosalie and take hold of her arms to prevent her from fighting back too much. Dragomir’s free hand was pressed onto her forehead and I watched in disgust as he pulled her head back. I wasn’t disgusted by Dragomir’s actions, just at his hands. His heart was beating now, but it hadn’t been for at least three weeks, and his skin still looked a little burned and rotten. The effects of being dead would probably wear off soon enough, but for the time being, they were still there.
I didn’t want to watch, but I knew I couldn’t turn away either. I folded my arms and squinted my eyes to the point where my eyelids were just slits. Walker took hold of Rosalie’s neck with one hand and pierced the skin with the needle with the other. He slowly pressed his thumb down on the small metal pump that injected the radioactive material into the girl’s neck. As soon as it was all gone, Walker quickly pulled back the needle. Too quickly, it seemed, for I saw a small drop of blood dripping from the syringe. Dragomir and Brandi let go of Rosalie, who brought her hand to her neck. She was breathing hard, but no tears had left her eyes.
“You’re free to go now,” Walker said casually, dropping the syringe back onto the desk unceremoniously. “We’ll call you if you need anything.”
Rosalie continued to breathe heavily for a few seconds before responding, “How will I get home? I don’t have a car.” Walker glanced up at me and I gave him a doubtful look.
“Brandi will drive you,” Walker replied, lightly pushing Rosalie off the table.
“Let’s go,” Brandi said unsympathetically as she led Rosalie out of the room. Once the door had shut behind them, I instantly felt more relaxed.
“Hmm,” I turned to look at Walker, a thousand thoughts racing through my head.
“Yes?” he asked, looking at me with curiosity.
“Nothing,” I replied, “You executed that better than I’d thought you would. You were a bit reckless, but we got the results we needed.”
“You thought I was reckless?” Walker asked. I was surprised to find all traces of his normal contempt and pride gone, only to be replaced by a strange, alluring calm.
I shrugged, “Maybe a little,” I replied, “But there’ll be more chances.” I wasn’t sure what I meant by that, but I had a feeling I soon would.