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Chapter Thirty-One: Natalia

"What's wrong?"

I groaned. My head was pounding as if a jackhammer was going to town on the inside of my skull. I moved to massage my temples, but my arms were restricted by my sides. I tried my legs to find they were strapped down as well.

"She's rejecting us."

I managed to open my eyes enough to see a blaring lamp hanging over my face. Immediately, I shut my eyes. The light left little black spots floating around the inside of my eyelids.

"You assured me you could do this procedure," said a man. He seemed to be the one in charge here.

I rubbed my fingers against the surface I was strapped to. It was cool and smooth to the touch like steel. I had to be on a surgical table of some sort. Just perfect.

"She believes the memories we gave her wholeheartedly. It's making it hard to unlock her true memories."

I slowly opened my eyes again, allowing them to adjust to the bright light. I wanted to see my captors. They didn't sound like the Gaines couple. No. These were both male. There was something eerily familiar about the more authoritative one. I knew who he was on a deeper level. The feeling was there in the back of my mind, itching to get out. I silenced the urge. It was important now. The only thing that mattered was survival.

Footsteps sounded against the tile floor below the table I was on. I opened my eyes wider so I could get a good look at the man holding me against my will.

The man hovered over me, blocking some of the light with his head. I opened my eyes wider. The first thing to catch my eye was the large gold crown on his head because it sparkled in the light above us. The hair surrounding the crown was a salt and pepper mixture most likely due to the aging process. His face was weathered almost to the point it looked like distressed leather. Wrinkles littered his face, but they were mostly concentrated on his forehead as if he spent his entire life worrying. His greenish-blue eyes reminded me of the pictures of the Atlantic Ocean I'd seen in my textbook during school. HIs nose was slightly crooked as if he'd broken it during his youth.

The last thing to catch my eye was the black jumpsuit he was wearing. It was the classic TWA Molecular Telepath uniform except for one small difference. A gold crown was embroidered onto the left side of his jumpsuit, directly over his heart. I'd seen that before.

"You," I mustered.

The man smiled. "She remembers me. That's progress."

A second man hovered over me on the other side. This one had a white lab coat over his navy blue jumpsuit. He looked to be a TWA Storm doctor, an oddity. This profession typically wasn't enticing for non-Molecular Telepaths. The element he manipulated would be of no use during procedures.

Then again, how many procedures was he really performing? The TWA practically held control over the entire world. A few guns wielded by some humans wasn't going to change that. The doctors were barely getting the chance to try the procedures they learned in school.

"We didn't do that, sire."

The man in the black jumpsuit looked up at the doctor. "Who did?" The doctor shrugged. The man turned his attention down to me. "Who helped you remember me?" I spat in his face; the man wiped my saliva off his face. "That wasn't polite, Princess."

"Don't call me that," I growled.

The man chuckled. "It seems we did too good of a job on her," said the man to the doctor. "Do you know who I am?" he asked me.

My eyes ventured back down to the crown embroidered on his chest. There was really only one explanation for its presence on the jumpsuit. "You're the king."

Why do I remember the king? Better yet, why was he holding me when I was a baby?

The king smiled. "You're not wrong, but who am I to you?"

It seemed like a trick question, almost like he was testing an allegiance I didn't have for him. "The king."

The king shook his head. "Have you gotten our top Moleculars on this?"

The doctor pulled back from the light; he became a part of the shadows around me. "Of course, sire. None of them can get past her mental defenses, even when she's asleep."

The king just smiled. I wanted so badly to wipe it off his face. "She's stronger than before. Molecular Officer Gaines used to be able to get in."

The riddles were making my head spin, providing me with questions I wanted, no needed solved. "Before what?"

The king pulled back, letting the light beat down on my sensitive eyes. "Isn't that the million dollar question?"

He walked around the metal table. "Call me when you make some progress with her and find out who helped her remember me. She's keeping something from us."

"Of course, your Royal Highness."

I went to work cutting the leather straps tying me down. Being careful during my work was important because I didn't want the fibers to make a snapping sound as I went along. I couldn't have the doctor knowing that I was trying to escape.

"You'll never get into my mind."

The doctor closed the door behind the king. "I'll never force my way in, that's true. The only way this is going to work is if you let me in."

I was a quarter of the way through the strap pinning my arms down. "Why would I let you in?"

The doctor appeared back over the table. "Because the humans made you soft, Princess."

I was halfway through the leather bonds when I realized I was doing this the most difficult way possible. I could easily dissolve both of the leather straps in one move. Freedom would be within my grasp in a matter of milliseconds.

I dissolved the straps, grabbing a hold of the doctor's head immediately. I smashed it against the metal corner of the table. He didn't even have time to scream out in pain before passing out. I hopped off the table, running for the single door. I opened it to see my hopes shattered.

"Where do you think you're going?" Molecular Officer Gaines stood in front of the door, blocking my only exit.

I took a few steps back into the room. "Uh..."

Molecular Officer Gaines smiled wickedly. "The correct answer is nowhere."

I shot a bolt of energy directly into Molecular Officer Gaines's chest, knocking him into the far wall. I took off running down the hall. I needed to get out of here. Lowering my telepathic presence down until it mimicked that of an untrained trainee would give me some time to find a safe place to open a portal.

I turned right into another endless hallway. I took a left as soon as it was possible only to find another long hallway. It was an endless maze I was unfamiliar with. I'd never make it out of here without some assistance.

I began trying the doors along the hallway, looking for one that was unlocked. "Princess Natalia?"

I froze. How did they already find me? I slowly turned around to see both of my parents in navy blue TWA jumpsuits. "Mom? Dad?"

My parents smiled at each other. "She's still confused. Have you gone through debriefing?"

I straightened myself up, clearing the shock from my face. They think you're one of them. Act like it.

"Of course. I got caught up in those old memories, Storm Officers Thompson."

My mom continued smiling, showing all of her teeth as she did. It was the smile she gave me when she caught me in a lie, except this one was more cynical. "We should get you back to medical, Princess," said my mom. I bolted down the hall. "Sound the alarm."

I darted down hallway after hallway, looking for any indication I was going the right way. There were no windows and nothing but white walls to orient myself with. I'm never getting out of here.

I turned down one more hallway to find Molecular Officer Gaines holding a blade to Jesse's neck. "Stop right there." I froze.

Jesse squirmed under his father's grip. "Let him go," I demanded.

Molecular Officer Gaines readjusted his grip on the knife's hilt "Come with me willingly to medical and I'll let him go."

I expanded my telepathic presence back to its original size. "No."

Molecular Officer Gaines pressed the knife into Jesse's skin; Jesse winced. "I'm not afraid to kill this traitor."

I gazed straight into Jesse's eyes and it was probably a gigantic mistake on my part. Jesse's emerald orbs glistened with unshed tears he fought to hold back. His presence reached out to me, asking for my help. He couldn't get out of this alone and he didn't want to die on the floor of this hallway by his own father's hands. All of this he tried to hide from me. All of it was obvious in a single look.

I knelt down on the ground, interlocking my fingers behind my head as I did. "What're you doing?" asked Jesse.

I sat down on my calves as I stared straight at Molecular Officer Gaines. "Saving your life."

Molecular Officer Gaines tossed his son aside. He walked down that hallway, eyeing his prize. "You've grown soft, Princess."

Molecular Officer Gaines stumbled forward before his head connected with the wall. I looked over his crumpled body to see Jesse with his hand outstretched in my direction. He caused his father to fall.

He scurried down the hall. "We have to go now."

I pulled away from Jesse. "No. The only way we survive this is if you go back to the Rebels and devise a rescue plan."

Jesse studied his father's still body. "Why did he call you princess?"

I shrugged. "I don't know." I shoved Jesse away from me. "You need to go. I'll distract them."

Jesse's emerald orbs looked into mine. "I'm not leaving you."

I ripped open a portal to just beyond the walls of the compound. It'd look like I was trying to escape before Molecular Officer Gaines woke up. "If you don't leave, we're both doomed."

Jesse moved toward the portal. "Wait," I said. Jesse froze. "I'm sorry I thought you were a TWA spy."

Jesse smiled. "I understand. It didn't look good for me." He went through the portal just as his father was waking up.

I left the portal open, waiting for Molecular Officer Gaines to regain consciousness and "stop" me. He wasn't exactly fast at reacting to the situation. I could've easily stepped through the portal back to the relative safety of the Rebels. The only thing stopping me was the safety of the other rebels.

Molecular Officer grabbed my wrist and shut my portal down when he regained his wits. "You're not going anywhere but medical." I spat in his face. "You'll regret that later."

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