Chapter 16.2: Quarantine

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The soldier shoved Seth into the narrow cell, ramming the muzzle of the gun into his lower back. Seth stumbled forward with as much dignity he could muster despite the panicked whirring of the soldier's energy weapon. One false move and his stomach was destined to become sludge against the facing wall.

The soldier retreated a step and activated the shield. Small glyphs danced up the barrier, their soft glow threading a pale yellow veil that drifted in a non-existent breeze. Seth resisted the urge to stroke the shimmering veil not unlike the auroras that danced above the academy every night. Was this a demon shield? Did they think he was a demon?

Seth went rigid with the realization. He glanced to the frightened men who stood on guard, weapons pointed to his cell despite the safety measures. Black visors hid their faces. If he pushed through the barrier, they'd only think that their tech was faulty.

The student monitored his movements, turning his hands out to demonstrate that he meant no harm. There was nothing he could tell these men that they'd believe. 'I'm not a demon,' is exactly what a demon caught in an unpleasant situation would say.

"Why am I here?" Seth tried to sound calm. The stark florescent light above him flickered. He held his breath, waiting for the electrical stutter to settle. He glanced to the soldiers, gauging their reactions. Their aim remained true, their bodies rigid. They were either experienced enough to know that shooting at the lights wouldn't save them, or too inexperienced to know that the flickering of light might mean more than faulty wiring.

'It's fine. It's just your cell. Nothing to worry about,' Seth tried to calm himself.

He chanced a glance down the hall, sighting rows of empty cells caught between pale barriers. More demon shields, Seth guessed. Out of sight, Astral had to have been taken. Like him, she was bound to have armed guards ready to take her out in a blink of an eye. She had the personality type to challenge her death. He strained his hearing, catching the sound of heavy boots marching in his direction.

The first soldier took his position on the left side of Seth's cell, making way for a tall blond woman with narrow features, as a second soldier stationed himself on the right side of the door. She crossed the thresh hold of his cell, pushing through the veil as though it was never there. She gave the prisoner a quick clinical inspection before pulling her cart into the narrow room with her. As she stepped forward, he took a step back.

"Subject is a teenage male, approximately eighteen years old." She spoke to no one in particular.

Seth noted the blinking red eye staring at him from above the door. She unfolded her tools with long graceful fingers; hands that belonged to a musician, perhaps a pianist. The light flickered.

"See that the power gets sorted," she said to the soldiers without looking. "We only need two cells. Shut down the power to the unused wards if you have to." She positioned each tool to line up neatly, before pulling a series of petri dishes from the hovering cart's drawer.

Her escorts remained vigilant as the remaining captors played a game of mental chicken. As one rushed forward, offering a hasty rigid salute, pounding his right fist to his left breast, the other sagged. The woman closed her eyes as she listened to the soldier's retreat. "That was Private Warren, wasn't it."

"Yes, mam," a soldier said. His voice was stiff, betraying an uncertain level of compassion and guilt in his tone.

She nodded to herself. She regarded Seth, not as a young man, but as a thing in need of inspection. "Arms out." He complied with a flinch.

Her hand hovered inched over his skin, tracing claw marks and burns with a light touch. "Subject has multiple lacerations across his torso and arms. Necrotic flesh has formed along the subjects lower arm, left upper torso, and waist."

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