Chapter 16: Lauren
I walk with purpose. My heels clack against the floor as I make my way to his holding cell. I enter through the initial doorway to find a guard posted at the door leading to the row of cells on the other side. Another soldier sits at a desk, his feet placed atop them.
I step towards the door, only to have the guard block my path.
“Apologies ma’am, no one is to see the Captain,” he says timidly.
I stare at him unamused.
“Get out of my way or I’ll make sure you get sent to the front lines…tomorrow,” I demand.
The guard swallows hard and silently steps aside. I swipe my ID across the pad on the side of the door, causing it to open.
I step inside, immediately turning left and walking down the wide hallway, stopping in front of his cell. He sits on the uncomfortable bench placed inside. His elbows are on his knees as he leans forward, uniform jacket undone, shirt unbuttoned.
“Come here to gloat?” He asks, knowing it’s me without having to look.
“You and I both knew that one of us would end up in this position, Andrews. It’s nothing personal. Just business,”
“Like the business you have with Hall?” He says, staring up at me with a glare.
“Hall is nothing more than an object for my amusement,”
“That why you took the information from him against me?”
I narrow my eyes at the fact that he knew.
“What? Did you think you were the only one who has little spies around here? I know that Hall has everything he needs to bury all of us under this station,”
“If that’s the case, why didn’t you do something about him earlier?”
“And risk your scorn? I’ve seen that side of you. I preferred to stay clear of it. It begs the question though, if he is just a play thing…why throw me under the bus to protect him and the train wreck that is Ethan Blake?” Andrews asks, standing and walking closer to the bars that separate us.
I can’t help but giggle at him.
“Your attempts at finding fault within me are amusing, John. You want honesty? Well, fine. Here it is. You spend all of your time in that pretty penthouse of yours, while I’m down here doing our work. You then have the nerve to come down every so often and sling your weight around like you’re giving some sort of oversight when in reality all you’re doing is profiting. I’ve grown tired of it. Fact of the matter is, Hall would given us both up for the sake of doing the right thing. So, I took the opportunity save myself and remove you from the picture. And here I thought you knew me better than to be so naïve as to think I did anything for some chemical reaction going on inside my brain,”
Andrews suddenly snatches me by the throat through the bars, squeezing not as hard as I know he’d like to.
“You really are a treacherous bitch, Lauren. You know I’m going to make sure you go down with me, right?”
I give him a sly smile. “Threaten me all you’d like. But you bringing me down with you is about as likely as you throttling me to death with the hand you have around my neck,”
He reactively squeezes harder, trying to threaten me. I can feel my eyes water as my airway is slightly cut off. He stares at me, wanting to squeeze the life out of me, releasing me as he decides not to seal his fate entirely.
I flex my neck from side to side, stretching out the stiffness his hand created.
“Why did you come to see me?” Andrews asks aggressively as he returns to his position on the bench.
“A deal,” I state simply.
Andrews scoffs “What could you possibly offer me at this point?”
“It’s obvious you’re going down, John. There’s no doubt on that matter. How hard you go down is another thing entirely. I have the power to soften that blow for you,”
“What’s in it for you?”
“You keep your mouth shut, of course,”
“Always working the system in your favor. Classic Lauren,”
“What exactly would you do for me?”
“Well, from the way it sounds, the Commander wants your head on a pike. I’ll make sure it stays comfortably attached to your neck. Few years at Tyr prison and you’ll be free,”
Anderson stares at the floor, thinking. He stands from the bench an begins to pace, arms folded, a hand propped under his chin. He stops and looks at me, approaching the bars once again.
“You make a compelling argument. When we started this venture, Lauren…did you really expect that it would end this way?” He asks, surprisingly sentimental.
“I had hoped not. Truth be told, I figured it would be me on the other end of this,”
“And what would you have done in my situation?”
I smirk “I would have burned your world to the ground before mine came crashing down,”
Anderson gives me a defiant smile “Then I think you have your answer,”
I nod slightly “Very well, John,” I say, turning to exit the holding area.
I return to the small security office and approach to the guard at the desk.
“Tell me, has he eaten yet today?” I ask.
“Cafeteria should be making it up now Doctor,”
“Good,” I say, removing myself back to the hallways.
I traverse the winding pathways until I reach a specific lab, scanning my card and entering. I approach a mixing table where several small phials of clear liquid have been placed and labeled. I pick up the most recent batch and study it.
“Something I can help you with, Doctor Cain?” Aldan’s familiar voice asks from behind.
“Yes, how is the progress on this one?” I ask.
Aldan steps beside me “The most recent batch has quite a potent effect. We’re seeing less side effects and more chemical response in the brain than before. It’s almost finished,” He explains.
I smile deviously “That’s what I wanted to hear,” I say as I place the phial in my pocket.
“I’d like to keep this one for my personal lab. How long does it take for effects to manifest?”
“About twenty-four hours,”
“Excellent,” I say, exiting the lab as quickly as I entered.
I make my way to the cafeteria, entering through the kitchen doors.
One of the chefs stares at me slightly confused “Doctor Cain? To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“I’d like to personally inspect Captain Andrews food. There was talk of an escape being planned,” I lie.
The kitchen worker smiles and scoffs at the ridiculousness of my story “Well I can assure you ma’am, it’s all good here,”
“I think I’ll be the judge of that,” I say as I step passed him to a tray full of food that’s resting on a cart.
I look back at the chef as I lift a fork off the cart to act like I’m sifting through it, looking for a nonexistent escape item. I subtly draw the phial from my pocket, opening it with one hand. I hesitate for a moment. Then take a deep breath as I pour it over top of a helping of mashed potatoes, stirring it in with the fork.
I turn around “Looks like everything is good here. I suppose I had nothing to worry about. Thank you for indulging my paranoia,”
“No problem doc, you’re the boss,”
I step out of the kitchen, ignoring the pang of annoyance I feel at being called ‘doc’.
I notice Dante approaching me from the opposite end of the hallway. I look down at the floor, pretending I don’t see him. I’m completely uninterested in social interaction at this point. I notice him look at me as he passes, expecting I’ll return his gaze. He stops and follows me with his eyes as I pass by him.
I turn at the closest corner and step into an empty room, leaving the lights off. I lean on to my hands at a nearby desk. I can feel them trembling.
Pull yourself together, Lauren.
I never really liked Anderson, but we did have a partnership for some time. As much as I hate to admit, the action I’m about to commit is a little unnerving. Had he simply accepted my terms we wouldn’t be in this situation. He pushed me to this.
I look over my shoulder at the presence who’s made themselves known. I turn to face Dante, knowing his voice anywhere.
He stares at me with concern. I stiffen myself and stand with independence.
“Wh…what is it, Dante?”
He stifles a smile as I clearly look ridiculous trying to hide my feelings.
He steps closer to me, placing a hand on my arm “Tell me,” He says.
I bite my lip, attempting to stifle tears. “I…I don’t know what this is. Every time I think about this mess, my heart races and I start to become a blabbering idiot,”
“That’s easy girly. You’re afraid,”
“What do I possibly have to be afraid of?”
“Well a lot, to be honest. He might bring you down with him. Commander could find the evidence himself. There’s a number of variables,”
I turn away from him, folding my arms “You’re sure there’s nothing that could put me away with him?” I ask.
“Lauren…I’ve set aside a good deal of what I believe in to spare you the same punishment that Anderson is about to deal with. You really think I wouldn’t be thorough about it?” He replies, a bite in his voice.
I turn back to face him, his expression now turned to that of seriousness.
“Why would you do that for me? I know your code means a great deal to you. Who am I to make you break it?”
“If it’s not already obvious to you, then perhaps I was wrong to in the first place,”
I stare at him, confused for a moment. The surprise slowly creeps into my expression as the answer forms in my mind.
Dante’s expression softens “It’s exactly what you’re thinking,”
He brushes the back of his hand across my face.
“I tried not to. Believe me I did. I knew what this was supposed to be. But then you spoke about changing the rules. It made me think about it. For all intents and purposes, you and I shouldn’t exist in this fashion. Who I am wouldn’t allow it,” Dante takes my face in both of his hands “But for some reason, the universe decided to make a paradox. And at this point, it’s a little too late to deny the fact that I’m in love with you,” He says as he leans in to kiss me.
I’m left speechless as he pulls away from, involuntary tears now streaming down my face.
“Everything is going to be alright, Lauren. I promise. Even if I have to put Anderson in the ground to make sure you come out free, I’ll do it,”
“You don’t have to say anything. Take some time to think what I said, that’s all I need. Get some sleep, you look like you need it,” He says as he returns to his normal self, giving me his trademark smile.
He turns and walks to the door, flipping the light switch, turning back to me.
“Little bit of light in your life,” He says, his smile turned to a grin.
I can’t help but let a giggle slip out before he steps back into the hallway, the door closing behind him.
The absence of his presence returns my mind back to the matter at hand however. This time my fear is replaced with a resolute confidence.
If Dante can do what he did for me, why shouldn’t I be able to do it for myself?
More so than that, I don’t want to have to let Dante go. He was right in saying that we are a paradox. In reality, I know that we shouldn’t be anything to each other.
I’m aware of who I am. And I don’t intend on stopping until I reach my goal.
Perhaps Dante will allow it on account of his feelings. Hell, perhaps he’ll change my mind about my ambitions.
I am known for being a self-centered person. Thinking only of my goals and how to reach them by going through others like an obstacle. But this time, it’s not about removing an obstacle to move forward. It’s about making sure this thing that’s worming its way through me stays by my side while I continue to remove the obstacles.
I’ve…never felt love before. Not really. Not even for my own blood. It’s always felt like just another conjuring of the brain to me. I’m not sure what’s different about Dante…but it’s making me feel very selfish about keeping him next to me.