chapter nineteen: Wild

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I could feel them all with my eyes closed, the needles, there was one in the crook of both my arms. I was painfully aware of the sensation of it, the slight tugging just beneath my skin, the light suction as it pulled blood from my veins. I could feel something else too, a coldness beneath my skin that was reminiscent of Dart's treatment, the way it felt spreading subcutaneously, but this was much slower and deeper.

I tried to open my heavy lids. I couldn't remember where I was. Was I back home with Dart? Ha. Home. I realized in a moment how sad it was that that was the only home I had left to identify with, my prison with a controlling kidnapper. My home had been destroyed when...

Then I remembered. I had been with Daily and Sparrow when his father had shown up. Strike Rite, head of the most Noble of Noble households, practically royalty on Veritas, the man who had destroyed my planet. Sparrow had knocked me out when I had threatened to kill myself. Now I was fading into consciousness with needles in my veins. No. Those bastards were going to save me, help me survive on earth just so I could watch another species be destroyed or enslaved or whatever he had planned next. How could Sparrow resign himself to be a part of it? How could he ever think his father would let me live either way?

I knew in my soul that the only reason Strike was doing this was to toy with his son. To bring him to his side and try to break him, make him more like his father. Sparrow was too good hearted, too soft. I didn't want to know what he had in mind for me, but it wasn't good. I would have rather put a bullet--or in my case, tiny metal balls traveling five times faster than a bullet--through my skull than wait around and be tortured while Striker got everything he wanted. No thanks.

I let out a slight moan and forced my eyelids open. The lights were blurry and blinding. There was one handing right over me. I squeezed my eyes shut before blinking them again and trying to move them, take in anything else about my surroundings. All I got were more blurred, blinking lights and lots of strands of color. I groaned again from effort as I tried to sit up, but my body wouldn't respond. It was like I was paralyzed. I swallowed and tried to scream, only a mild gargled sound escaped my throat, and I realized I couldn't even speak or yell. I couldn't even whisper.

"Is she in pain?" a frantic voice said. Sparrow. "You promised she wouldn't be in pain!"

"Calm down." Strike. "She's fine. Probably just disoriented. Give her some more sedative. The process is going to take a while longer."

"But it is working?" Sparrow asked.

"Yes, son. I keep my promises. My team has done this once before. It's not ideal, but it works."

"Who was the other?"

Strike chuckled.

I felt another needle under my skin and a sudden rush of cool liquid spreading through my left arm. I fought the feeling of sleepiness that immediately began to settle over me. I had to listen. I had to hear more. I had to know what they were doing to me.

Striker answered: "A sacrifice to the greater good, son. An experiment that did not yield ideal results."

"If it didn't yield the desired results than how can I know that Wild will be okay?" Sparrow growled.

"You have to understand that sometimes there have to be these kinds of sacrifices don't you? I'll make it all more clear in the coming days as the final steps of our plan are put into motion," Striker said.

Their voices were growing more distant, garbled. I forced my brain to keep processing, my ears to keep listening. I clenched my teeth and tensed my muscles.

"She's not one of those sacrifices. I've agreed to your demands. Now I expect the truth! Will Wild be okay?" Sparrow said.

"She'll be fine." I could just picture the look on Strike's face. I could just picture his smug smile, his cold, calculating eyes. I sit up straight out of the blue, yell "Boo!" and punch him in the face. Let him be one step ahead for that! Then I could die. At least I would have accomplished something noble at that point. At least I would have tried. But I couldn't even manage that. I couldn't even touch my vita. I was as useless as ever, and the weight of whatever they'd given me was really settling in.

"You said it wasn't ideal," Sparrow hissed. I could barely hear him. I was listening as closely as I could. Inside I was screaming for him to speak up. "What wasn't ideal?"

"You're getting better at asking the right questions," Strike laughed. "Just one minor thing. This method, the method we are using here to enable Wild to survive Earth's atmosphere, is not the same as the years of genetic therapy that went into me or you. This is an old method, one of several quick fixes we found that did not work, and while it enabled our people to survive in this atmosphere, it came with a price."

"What price?" Sparrows voice barely pierced my mind now.

But I couldn't let myself slip away without hearing Strike's answer. What would be the price of this treatment they were performing on me? What would be the sacrifice we would pay for my life here?

"Her vita will be lost," Strike said seriously.

I couldn't be sure if it was the medication or if it was those five words, but my heart felt as if it had stopped. Everything had slowed down inside me. Then, in an instant, my mind and my heart were racing, trying to claw their way out of my body and fight for me, but neither could win against the physical paralysis that caged them. I felt as if I must be crying, but I didn't know. I couldn't feel anything but pure panic, pure emotion. They couldn't take my vita. It wasn't worth it, and Strike would never, never let me be a part of his new world order without it. There was no way. Sparrow had to see that. He had to. Why wasn't he already responding with rage? Why wasn't he already fighting his father? Maybe he was. Maybe he was, right? I couldn't hear anything anymore, so maybe he was. I couldn't hear; I couldn't feel; I couldn't see.

I struggled, trying with everything I had to wake up, to be free, to run. But then it all caved in and despair took me to a very, very dark place.

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