Chapter 21.3: Arena Three

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The Enhanced woman closed her eyes, took a deep slow breath and cocked her head back as though deep in thought. The scars on her face sparked to life, lighting up in gold, as she let out a long breath. The soldiers lowered their heads in prayer, their breathing slow and concentrated.

With each breath the woman took, she grew brighter until her body couldn't contain her brilliance anymore and light burst from her body, bathing the people in the immediate area with her soul.

Her will cut through William, pushing against him until it found a way through him. He stumbled backwards winded and fell to his knees, clutching his stomach. His whole body shook from the inside. His vision blurred. His bones burned. He held his stomach not because it hurt, but out of wanting to hold himself together.

It was so hard to breathe. It was so hot, like in those tunnels. Writhing. Pulsing. Pushing him. Guiding him to the exit. To his freedom. Only she was moving inside of his skin. Burrowing. Searching for a way in.

He wasn't going to let her in. He glared through gentle flecks of falling gold twilight.

Eyes shut in her concentration; she didn't see his resolve. He must be putting up quite the fight, he reasoned, noting that he was the only one on his knees. The only one in pain.

His father watched him. Whatever it was he was being tested for, he had failed.

'She's a monster! Can't you see?!' He wanted to shout. Obviously, his father knew that the Enhanced woman was a monster. But it was somehow okay as long as she was following his orders. Just like it was okay for these monsters to exist, as long as they were under the command of the right family. He understood for the first time, more completely than he ever had, why the Enhanced were abominations. Why they weren't considered human. Why they were hated and feared.

They were monsters in human skin.

But monsters used to fight demons...

He looked around at the army of hundreds of abominations surrounding him. Were they all Enhanced? There had to be at least one pure red-blooded human in the mix? But what did that mean for his father? William wasn't sure anymore.

The light retreated back into the Enhanced woman's body. She nodded to his father. "The kid's a problem. Bind him."

Mathias shot an accusing glance at William that said: 'What did you do now?'

"How compromised?" His father sounded tired, the concern for his son's long-term health had become too much of a challenge.

"Like echoes..." she tried to explain. "He's vulnerable to negative suggestion. I mean that's obvious based on observation. But I think that's how it's... rooted itself... I think. When I try to separate it from him, it digs in. I can't get in deeper without doing some serious damage." She stared at a random spot on the ground as she tried to work out the words to share what she had seen. "Empty but not... Not possessed... More like groomed."

"That's fine." Mathias nodded and gestured for William's guards to bind him. "We're headed into dangerous territory, son. We need to do this for our safety and yours. I know it may not look it, but your fight or flight instincts are on overdrive. You've already attacked a number of the E.M.I. personnel multiple times over the course of the evening. I would rather not have to Hunt tonight, but you've left us with no other alternative."

He left them with no choice? How? He was only doing the right thing. The school had already planned to dispose of him. None of this was his fault!

"Bind them all," Mathias said, "they're coming with us." The E.M.I. pulled the resistant G.C. agents toward the arena. They knew something wasn't right with this place. Was it smart to bring the enemy with them?

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