We're On a Time Crunch
“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”
I couldn’t see.
I couldn’t breathe.
The restraints strapping me down refused to budge no matter how much I struggled against them, desperate to break free and escape my newest waterboarding session.
“Let’s see if you’re ready to talk now,” Tyrese said, lifting the soaked rag off my face and allowing oxygen to flood into my body. It created a near-euphoric sensation as I gulped it in, trying to regain as much of my breath as possible before the next round. “Tell me everything you know about Arya and Ren Laroche and their children. Tell me how to get to them.”
“I-I’ve told you… everything,” I said weakly, feeling my consciousness fading quickly. “They are… they’re the most p-powerful pack.”
“So the Starks aren’t on at the same level as them?”
“N-no, they are.”
“But you just said the Laroches are the most powerful pack. Make up your damn mind.”
“Why haven’t they killed each other?”
I attempted to shake my head, but my muscles refused to move. “I don’t know.”
“What do you know?” Tyrese demanded, scoffing. “For an alpha, it seems you don’t know shit.”
“Controllers. Th-they’re protecting them.”
My words grabbed his attention. “Controllers, huh? What are these people like?”
“I don’t know,” I croaked out, my voice starting to give out. “They’re more power… more powerful than anyone.”
“Viktor, Nicole, watch her,” Tyrese ordered, striding to the door. “I’m going to grab Odette because I think we’re finally getting somewhere with the bitch.”
I listened to his footsteps recede before fully relaxing. My muscles thanked me. Viktor hurried over to me, pulling a vial from his pocket and tipping it into my mouth, saying, “Crushed up oxycodone. Our protegee doctor-in-training mixed it up for you. It should help with the pain and help your healing process.”
“Thank you,” I breathed, feeling the relief almost instantaneously. I turned to look at them now that my body worked again. “How are you two doing? Nicole, are you okay, sweetie?”
Nicole nodded, her voice barely audible when she said, “Yeah.”
“Are you scared?” I asked gently.
She nodded again.
“You are so brave and strong, you know that? Not many kids your age could handle seeing this, and I’m going to make sure you never have to see this again.”
“Will they do this to me if they catch us helping you?”
“No, because I won’t let them touch you, neither will Viktor, and neither will my pack,” I promised, desperately wishing I could reach out and hug the terrified child. “My kind, we’re hunters, but that doesn’t mean we’re killers. I’ll protect you from the Shadows when the time comes, okay?”
“Elsa’s right,” Viktor chimed in, kneeling next to Nicole. “We’re not going to let anything happen to you or any of the other younger kids.”
Nicole smiled and hugged him. “I believe you.”
“Good.” Ruffling her hair, Viktor stood up. “Elsa, do you know when your pack is coming?”
“Soon. I know they’re working on it. My twin, she and I have been able to connect a few times, but not for long,” I replied, heart constricting at the thought of my sister and the anticipation of seeing her again. “Not long enough for me to tell her anything of importance to my location. I don’t even know where I am.”
“Off the coast of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. I know you still don’t trust me fully, and you have every right not to because I work for shitty people- excuse my French, Nicole.”
“But…?” I prodded.
“But if you give me a way to contact them, I can send them our coordinates and work out a strategic plan with them.”
I mulled over his words, debating whether or not to agree. On the one hand, Viktor was right. I still didn’t fully trust him. He still worked for the Shadows, and for all I knew, they could’ve trained him to lie so impeccably that I wouldn’t be able to tell by his heartbeat or not. He could be their top student, and I had no way of truly knowing that or than my own miniature polygraph test.
Then again, Nicole looked up to him, and she seemed genuinely fearful for her life if they were caught helping me; the affection and protectiveness Viktor showed her was no lie either. It reminded me of my relationship with my own brothers before it all went to shit.
I opened my mouth to respond when two kids, not much older than Viktor, came bursting into the room. Both bent over and braced themselves on their knees, panting like they’d run five miles, trying to catch their breath as words spewed out of their mouth. It all sounded like gibberish to me, but Viktor seemed to catch on.
“What?!” He exclaimed. “How long do we have?!”
“Ten minutes. Tops,” the girl said. “They’re on their way, but the adults don’t know yet. We’re not telling them.”
“Shit! Elsa’s not in fighting condition!” Viktor motioned to my strapped-down, beaten-up body. Squeezing his eyes shut and clutching his hands behind his head, he begged, “Tell me you have something to help her!”
I lifted my head, highly concerned by the topic of conversation. “What is going on, and why are you talking like I’m not here?”
“Oh! Hi! The girl said, eyes widening. “Wow. You look super normal for a Shifter.”
Involuntarily, I smiled. “What? Did you think I’d have hair growing out of my ears and between my fingers and toes?”
“Honestly? Kind of.”
“Ladies, we’re in a time-crunch here,” Viktor interrupted, clapping his hands to grab our attention. “Elsa, this is Miriam and Kline. Miriam, Kline, this is Elsa. Now tell me you have something to help her that won’t interact with the oxycodone I just gave her!”
“I prepared a patch for this precise situation that will periodically release pain and energy to your body to keep you fighting,” Kline said, pulling it out of his pocket. “It’s specifically designed for your biology, Elsa, but please, don’t ask what’s in it.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Will it kill me?”
“Probably not, but would you rather go down fighting or strapped to a chair getting waterboarded?”
“I think you know the answer to that,” I said, raising an eyebrow at him. “But no one’s told me why I need this patch. So? Why?”
Kline moved over to me and lifted up part of my shirt to place the patch as Viktor said, “Your pack is here. They’ve found us.”