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Chapter Forty

“Damian, you have to stay strong for me, okay?” Hunter’s voice was soft, breath warm on my cheek as his arms slowly fell away from me. When I cracked my eyes open, I was not surprised that he wasn't there and that I was not in my room. Rather in a dingy cell with a bucket as the toilet and a threadbare blanket as the bed. Past the bars, the dull lights barely hid the pig of a guard snoring away at his station.

“Damian?” Sophia’s frail voice pulled at my heart as she tried to sit up. She had both of our blankets over her trembling shoulders.

“I’m here.” Touching her hand, she crawled closer, curling up as her head rested on my thigh. Hesitantly, I placed my hand on her hip. “Is it still sore?”

Sophia nodded, squeezing her eyes shut. Taking a deep breath, I gently slipped into her mind, preparing for the zap from the collar as soon as I eased down her pain receptors. She breathed out in relief allowing me a second to disconnect before jolting from the warning shock.

“T-thank you.”
“Get some rest, I’ll wake you when they bring food.”

As Sophia dropped into unconsciousness, I closed my eyes, searching for the mind I spent six months inside. When the familiar signal reached me, I made sure to connect as gently and smoothly as possible. The old urge to dive straight in a distant murmur.

Hunter was stood next to his new family. The soldiers, Neo and Kingston, were on either side of him scanning over a detailed blueprint I had given to them three days prior. Echo and the siblings were on the other side, focused on what was being said. All of them were dressed in black uniforms. Was today the day they were going to rescue us?

Before I could ask, pain erupted from my side. Trying to disconnect before Hunter could feel pain, I watched as he turned to me before his image disappeared.

“Finally, the freak woke up!” A guard growled, in her hands was a rod with a syringe at its tip. The edges of my vision blurred; she had given me a drug they always gave before they wanted to experiment on me. It made the world spin and prevent me from concentrating.

“Play nice, kid, or it’s another beating,” The Pig guard threatened, yawning off his sleep. Complying was the only way to guarantee that when you came back there was food and water waiting for you. Not everyone got the memo on the first day.

Trying not to wake Sophia, I used the crumbling wall as support before stumbling out the cell. The guards grabbed my upper arms harshly, dragging me to the origin of all the screams in this place.

The lab was nothing fancy, kitted with the bare minimum the scientists would need, ready for them to jump as soon as a whiff of trouble showed itself. The only thing they had readily of was the metal tables Gifted were forced to lay on, often stripped to their underwear. The tables would send shivers down your spine, leaving a buried cold in your body once the scientists were done that would take hours to get rid of.

“You know the drill, strip.” The woman guard shoved me toward the nearest table, a smirk on her lips as she and her partner moved to their stations at the door.

The first time they had told me to do that, I laughed until they beat me to a pulp. Now, I could barely manage to take my clothes off without shuddering at my warped reflection in the table or the sight of my hipbones jutting out from my sunken stomach. Goosebumps already decorated my splotchy bruised skin as the room began to suck out my warmth and dignity.

“Up on the table,” The first scientist ordered as he entered the room. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he gazed down at a clipboard. Screaming inwardly, I did as told wanting to throw up just as the main scientist came in. She was the one who happily cut, stabbed and drilled into our bodies, listening to our screams and pleas with a critical stare while the guards watched.

“This won’t take long,” She muttered, giving me a tight-lipped smile as she gestured, I lay down. Again, I begrudgingly complied. She touched my side, pressing down hard on my one bruised rib. Gritting my teeth, I kept still as she moved to prep my arm in order to draw blood. Her assistant gave her the tubes as he walked to my other side, prepping my other arm. Immediately, I could feel the effects of them drawing my blood. Each arm they took two vials before placing plasters over them. The woman listened to my heart and my breathing before giving the all-clear to the guards.

“Put your clothes on. Rations will be at your cell,” She muttered, turning to leave.

Hurriedly, I threw on my shirt and jeans, feeling lightheaded. The guards pushed me forward, letting me shuffle my way in front of them until I reached my cell. The man unlocked the door before shoving me in. I fell on my knees before allowing myself to ease onto my stomach. Both guards snorted.

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” They laughed, whispering as they left.

“D-Damian?” Sophia was in the corner of our cell, two trays of food at her feet and a water bottle held to her chest.

“I’m okay, eat some food.”
“You need to eat too.”
“I’m too tired.”
“You have to, please.”

Sophia grimaced as she stood up, pulling the trays with her. She made me sit up before placing the cold tray in my lap. It was the usual stale bread and suspicious-looking stew. Sophia scoffed down hers, leaving the loaf of bread for last. Following her lead, I wolfed down everything and took two gulps from the water bottle.

With the food finished, we made ourselves comfortable for sleep. Sophia curled in against my side, her pixie haircut brushing my arm. To finish our pile, I pulled the two blankets over us, trying to chase away the cold before attempting to sleep.

When I woke up, it was to Sophia tugging on my arm. Her pale face and maroon eyes showed her fear as she pointed to the empty corridor.

“What’s wrong?” I found myself whispering, slowly pushing up onto my elbows to scan the corridor of anything different. The lights were off signalling something was definitely wrong.

“There are voices,” Sophia whispered back, clinging to my arm. Hope sparked in my heart as I opened my mind to find Hunter’s and sure enough, he was here. His entire team was here and one of them, a soldier, was heading our way.

“Soph, stay close to me no matter what, okay?” She nodded just as I felt my collar short-circuit and fall off. Sophia’s did not.

Then, he showed himself. A soldier stealthily stalked around the corner, two knives in each hand as his head swivelled to peer into the gaps the Pig used to sleep in. When he found him, the soldier slit his throat, leaving a low guttural gurgle of a scream to fill the cell block. He then moved towards us.

“Damian?” He asked, jingling keys into the cell’s lock. Nodding, I stumbled to my feet, helping Sophia to hers. She only stood as tall as my chest while the soldier was just shorter than me.

“Good. We need to get you out before-” An explosion rocked the cellblock, raining plaster down from the ceiling. “Fucking, Triston!”

“W-what’s happening?” Sophia was trembling next to me, hugging herself. The soldier glanced at her.

“We are busting you out.”

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