CHAPTER 38

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"No one's sticking me with anything," Luna said, a hand on her hip and a defiant glare. "I hate needles. And besides that, why should I trust someone who resorts to murder as a tactic?"

"I didn't kill anyone," Admiral Jax replied.

"But your robot thugs did."

"They're SEALs."

"But you gave the order."

The admiral remained stoic. "You have a valid point, but it won't get you out of this."

"Exactly what is this," Callisto chimed in. "I don't know what kind of sick games you guys are playing, but you can count me out."

"I'm afraid," the admiral said, his expression calloused and unwavering, "once you walked through door number two, your decision was final. Now that you're here, we move on to the next step."

"We never had a choice," Phoenix replied. "It was do or die, and you know it."

Dr. Fairhaven wrapped her fingers around his bicep and squeezed. It was a comforting touch. "Maybe we should at least hear what she has to say? We've been dragged all this way."

Phoenix glared at her. "Why? Give me one good reason."

"The admiral said she had a story to tell. Aren't you the least bit curious to find out why they kidnapped us? There has to be an awfully good reason for why they brought us here. I mean, look at this place. This isn't a back alley somewhere. This facility is serious business. I say we give her a chance to talk."

He searched Dr. Fairhaven's eyes for a reason to go along with her. She seemed intense, like she was afraid of something, but also amazed like she was in awe. "Okay. So we'll listen to her. I guess there's no harm in that...You can ease up on the arm. It's the only one I've got."

"Oh, sorry." The longer she had gripped his bicep, the more her fingernails had started to dig into his skin.

"Now that's the most reasonable thing I've heard thus far," the admiral said. "Besides, no one is getting stuck with anything. Thanks to Dr. Lawson's latest advancement, the serum has been converted to gas form. All you have to do is breathe. Once we had it perfected as a liquid, it was easy to put it into a more flexible package...for a variety of reasons." He nodded calmly. The tension in the underground courtyard had eased a fraction. "Dr. Lawson, the floor is yours. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other matters to attend to." He swiveled on his heels and headed down a corridor beyond the elevator, disappearing around a curve in the hall.

Dr. Lawson cleared her throat. Her eyes brightened. They had an intense quality about them. Penetrating. Disarming. "If everyone will follow me...this way."

She walked toward the lab area in the middle of the courtyard, her heels clicking on the marble floor, sounding louder in the expansive underground chamber. "This is where we'll begin. Whether you realize it or not, all of you are highly valued and coveted by the project founders based on the abilities you possess. Each of you will receive specialized care. Every step of the way, your progress will be monitored by experts, including myself. Nothing will be left to chance."

Phoenix followed Dr. Lawson to a glass door. He watched her like a hawk, his gaze tracking her every move. She placed her palm, fingers spread apart, in a scanner imbedded in the exterior wall. He observed as the light around her hand turned red and then flashed green, accepting her imprint. A second later, the passage opened and they entered, the door sliding closed behind them, sealing with a hiss of air.

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